Skip to main content

Full text of "The magic and mysteries of Mexico : or, The Arcane secrets and occult lore of the ancient Mexicans and Maya"

See other formats











MEXICO,"     "THE    MYTHS    OF    MEXICO    AND     PERU,"    "THE 
"THE     MYSTERIES     OF     BRITAIN,"     "THE     MYSTERIES     OF 

.  3.  43 

LONDON:     RIDER    &    CO. 

Printed  in  Great  Britain  at 
The  Mayflower  Press,  Plymouth.     William  Brendon  &  Son  Ltd 





THIS,  the  first  effort  to  include  in  one  volume 
all  that  is  known  regarding  the  arcane  know- 
ledge and  occult  lore  of  the  ancient  Mexican 
peoples  and  their  neighbours,  the  Maya  of  Central 
America  and  Yucatan,  is  the  result  of  more  than 
thirty-five  years  of  research  in  a  sphere  which  has 
richly  repaid  the  writer  by  the  companionship  of  its 
fascination,  and  which  he  hopes  will  prove  equally 
absorbing  to  the  reader  who  seeks  passing  amusement 
and  to  the  serious  student. 

The  book  is  so  compiled  as  to  be  useful  to  both, 
popular  in  its  general  treatment,  yet  sufficiently 
authoritative  in  its  sources  and  data  to  be  of  avail 
either  to  the  practical  anthropologist  or  the  student 
of  Mysticism.  The  historical  passages  essential  to 
the  introduction  of  the  main  subject  are  necessarily 
sketchy,  but  embody  sufficient  information  to  permit 
the  reader  ignorant  of  Central  American  chronicles  to 
approach  the  consideration  of  the  curious  knowledge 
of  the  more  enlightened  peoples  of  Isthmian  America 
in  the  fields  of  pure  Magic,  Astrology,  Witchcraft, 
Demonology  and  Symbolism. 

The  chapters  on  the  difficult  question  of  Mexican 
and  Maya  Astrology  have  been  reduced  to  a  simplicity 
of  presentation  which,  it  is  hoped,  will  render  this 
vexed  subject  plain  to  everyone,  and  its  basic  import- 
ance to  the  whole  survey  of  Mexican  occult  knowledge 
has  been  demonstrated  with  an  equal  desire  for 


That  this  astrological  lore  was  inevitably  accom- 
panied by  a  philosophy  of  dualism,  recalling  that  of 
ancient  Persia,  is  also  shown,  and  that  a  system  of 
initiation  resembling  that  connected  with  Asiatic  and 
European  wisdom-religions  was  also  in  vogue  in 
Central  America  is  now  for  the  first  time  suggested, 
and,  it  is  hoped,  adequately  proved. 

The  mystical  books  of  the  Mexicans  and  Maya  are 
described  and  the  relationships  between  the  religions 
of  these  people  and  their  magical  beliefs  fully  dis- 
cussed. Nor  have  minor  questions,  such  as  popular 
superstitions,  augury,  and  the  use  of  charms  and 
amulets  been  neglected.  In  fact,  every  effort  has 
been  put  forth  to  render  the  volume  as  complete  a 
treasury  of  the  occult  lore  of  Central  America  as  our 
present  acquaintance  with  the  facts  permits. 

The  writer  has,  above  all,  striven  to  preserve  the 
romance  inherent  in  the  subject,  and  has  tried  to 
cast  light  on  the  darker  places  by  an  occasional  appeal 
to  fiction,  but  when  such  an  aid  is  invoked  its 
imaginative  character  is  duly  indicated. 

The  Magic  of  old  Mexico,  although  it  closely 
resembles  that  of  other  lands,  has  distinct  racial 
characteristics  of  its  own,  and  is  capable  of  illuminat- 
ing other  systems  through  its  peculiar  preservation 
of  what  many  of  them  have  lost  or  cast  aside.  Its 
inherent  unity  of  idea  with  the  arcane  systems  of  the 
Old  World  makes  it  a  valuable  mine  of  analogy  and 
comparison,  even  if  the  differences  brought  about  by 
environment  seem  to  render  it  superficially  distinctive. 
But,  above  all,  its  indwelling  spirit  of  gloomy  wonder 
and  mystical  exclusiveness  perhaps  reveal  it  as  the 
most  fascinating  of  the  world's  secret  systems. 

L.  S. 




A  GLANCE  AT  ANCIENT  MEXICO          .         .         .         .         .17 

Neglect  of  Mexican  Magic  as  a  subject — Difficulties 
surrounding  it — The  Races  of  Mexico — The  Nahua — The 
Toltecs — Brinton's  theory  that  Toltecs  were  "  mythical  " 
— The  modern  view — Maya  sources — Attempt  at  a  solu- 
tion— Story  of  the  fall  of  the  Toltecs — The  Aztecs — 
Mexico  at  the  period  of  the  Spanish  Conquest — The  great 
temple  of  Uitzilopochtli — Culture  of  the  Aztecs — Their 
system  of  hieroglyphic  writing — Castes  and  classes — 
Architecture  and  its  remains — Sketch  of  Aztec  history — 
Tribal  feuds — Aztec  tyranny  and  human  sacrifice — Fall 
of  the  Aztec  state. 



Magic  the  basis  of  Mexican  religion — The  Rain-cult — 
The  Earth-Mother — Blood  as  a  rain-maker — The  festival 
of  the  Xalaquia — Quetzalcoatl  and  the  myths  concerning 
him — Tezcatlipoca  the  wizard  and  his  scrying-stone— 
Legends  regarding  him — Uitzilopochtli,  the  humming- 
bird wizard — The  Spanish  friars  on  his  origin — Cinteotl, 
the  maize-god — Tlazolteotl,  the  witch -goddess,  and  Cuia- 
coatl,  the  "  Serpent-woman  " — Xipe,  lord  of  human  sac- 
rifice— As  "  Pied  Piper  "  and  vampire — Itzpapalotl,  "  the 
obsidian-knife  butterfly  " — Gods  of  death  and  Hades — if 
Mexican  faith  illustrates  a  phase  in  the  development  of 
wisdom-religion — Its  position  at  the  period  of  the  Con- 
quest— Its  inner  significance. 


MEXICAN  MAGIC        ........       67 

The  naualli,  or  sorcerer  class — Ancient  accounts  of  them 
-«*-Use  of  drugs  and  intoxicants — Night  as  the  sorcerer's 
heyday — Higher  castes  of  sorcerers — Devil-worship  and^ 
its  secret  cult — Appearance  and  Magical  customs  of  the 
naualli — Divination — Magical  character  of  religious  fes- 
tivals— The  Obsidian  Religion  of  Mexico — Lesser  super- 
stitions—The story  of  Total  and  the  Naualli. 





MEXICAN  MAGIC  (continued)        ......       96 

^      The  art  of  divination — Its  several  methods — Augury  by 

^  bird-habit — Through  dreams  and  visions — The  true  tale 

,,,of  the  Princess  Papantzin — Amulets  and  charms — Talis- 

^mans  and  symbols — Magical  funeral  rites — Meeting -places 

of  the  Mexican  sorcerers — The  underground  labyrinth  at 

Mitla — Apparatus  of  the  Mexican  magician. 


THE  DEMONOLOGY  OF  MEXICO  .         .         .         .         .         .116 

The  Tzitzimime,  or  demons  of  the  stars — A  City  of 

Dreadful  Night — Haunting  shapes  of  Tezcatlipoca — The 

Mexican  banshee — The  rolling  death's  head — Giants  and 

dwarfs — Xelhua,  the  giant  of  the  Mexican  Babel — The 

Tlaloque,  or  rain-making  dwarfs — Legend  of  the  Dwarf  of 

Uxmal — Mexican  "  fairies  " — The  Tepictoton,  or  elves — 

The  Ciuatete6,  or  "  haunting  mothers  " — Shakespeare's 

sj'  Tempest  "  in  American  fairy  lore — Mythical  beasts — 

NJ  The  dragon  or  feathered  snake-^-The  lightning-dog — The 

demon  bat — Fabulous  birds. 


WITCHCRAFT  IN  MEXICO    .         .         .         .         .         .         .129 

Startling  resemblance  to  Old  World  witchcraft — 
Appearance  of  Mexican  witches — The  Ciuateted — The 
witch-mother  Tlazolteotl — Smearing  with  ointment,  and 
levitation — Assembly  at  cross-roads — Intoxication 
drugs — Sahagun  on  witch  customs — Witch  costumes  and 
ornaments — The  "  Hand  of  glory  " — Shrines  of  the 
witches — A  "  college  "  of  witches — Character  of  Tlazol- 
teotl— Her  festival — Comparison  between  Mexican  and 
Siberian  sorcery  and  Shamanism— The  broom  as  "  the 
witches'  palfry  " — Prehistoric  witchcraft  in  Europe — 
Possible  origins  of  Mexican  witchcraft. 


MEXICAN  ASTROLOGY          .......     144 

vj  Mexican  Astrology  based  on  the  Aztec  "  calendar  " — 
>J  "  Book  of  the  Good  and  Bad  Days  " — A  book  of  augury 
>J — Its  signs  and  symbols — The  Patrons  of  the  days — The 
Mexican  "  weeks  " — Lords  of  the  Night  and  Day — Re- 
capitulation— Significance  of  the  days — Their  dominance 
over  the  various  parts  of  the  body — Mexican  astrology 
and  stellar  astrology — The  planet  Venus — Effects  of  the 
planets  on  human  affairs — The  points  of  the  compass  and 
their  influences. 




THE  MYSTERIES  OF  NAGUALISM  .          .          .          .          .159 

The  Nagualists  a  vast  secret  society — The  concept  of 
the  beast -guardian — Women  pre-eminent  in  thia  cult — 
Methods  of  the  Nagualists — Transformations  and  shape- 
shifting — Annulment  of  Christian  ceremonies — Invisibility 
and  transportation — Nagualism  in  modern  times;  a 
recent  case. 


THE  MAGICAL  BOOKS  OF  THE  AZTECS          .          .         .          .172 

Destruction  of  the  Mexican  manuscripts — Survivals, 
their  history  and  adventures — Appearance  and  general 
character — The  classes  of  Mexican  manuscripts — The 
Codex  Borgia  and  its  contents — Deciphering  the  MSS. — 
The  Teo-Amoxtli — The  Codex  Fejervary-Mayer,  "The 
Wizards'  Manual  " — Methods  of  using  the  tonalamatl — 
Powers  of  concentration  in  Magic. 


THE  MAYA  PEOPLE  ........     183 

Maya  origins — Downfall  of  Guatemalan  centres — Maya 
colonization  of  Yucatan — Political  confederacy  of  Yucatan^ 
— Disastrous  wars — Maya  culture — The  Maya  hierogly- 
phical  system — Arithmetic  and  chronology — Maya  archi- 
tecture— The  ruins  of  Palenque — Ake  and  Chichen-Itza — 
Maya  history — The  Cocomes  and  the  Tutul-Xius — The 
Maya  in  Guatemala — Crash  of  the  Maya  states. 


MAYA  RELIGION         ........      197 

Pictured  forms  of  the  gods  in  the  Maya  manuscripts — 
Names  unknown,  so  designed  by  letters  of  the  alphabet — 
Places  of  origin  of  the  manuscripts — The  gods  in  their 
alphabetic  order — Comparison  with  forms  on  monuments 
and  in  hieroglyphs — Old  treatises  on  Maya  religion — 
Heavenly  bodies  as  deities — Itzamna — Identification  of 
known  names  with  "  alphabetic  "  gods — Other  gods. 


THE  MAGIC  or  THE  MAYA          .         .         .         .         .          .218 

The  book  of  Nunez  de  la  Vega — Votan  and  his  legend — 
The  secret  cavern  of  his  cult — Classes  of  the  Maya  sor- 
cerers— The  Chilan  or  "  Tigers  " — Strange  prophecies — 
The  oracle  of  Itzarnul — Astrological  system  of  the  Maya 
—Gods  of  the  week — The  Bacabs  and  the  Uayayab 



demons — Magical  significance  of  the  Maya  months — The 
Maya  Venus  period — Augury  and  superstitions — Demon  - 
ology — Magical  beliefs  of  the  Zapotecs — Their  scrying- 
stones — Oracle  near  Tehuantepec — Character  of  Maya 
Magic — Magical  formulae  employed  instead  of  human 
sacrifice — Maya  faith  as  sun-worship — The  Maya  manu- 
scripts— Brinton  on  Maya  symbolism. 


MYSTICAL  BOOKS  OF  THE  MAYA          .....     236 

The  Popol  Vuh — Story  of  its  discovery — The  Quiche 
Indians — Book  I,  Quiche  Mythology — The  creation  of 
man  and  his  fall — The  race  of  giants — The  story  of  their 
destruction — The  Second  Book — The  heavenly  twins — 
Their  adventures  in  the  Underworld — The  harrying  of 
Hell— Ordeals  of  the  brethren — The  Third  Book— The 
second  creation  of  man — His  subsequent  history — The 
Quiche  tribes — Native  character  of  the  "  Popol  Vuh  " — 
A  criticism  of  the  book — The  books  of  Chilan  Balam — 
Their  prophecies. 


ARCANE  PHILOSOPHY  OF  THE  MEXICANS  AND  MAYA    .          .     261 

Kab-ul,  "  The  Magic  Hand  " — The  allegory  of  nature 
-Jsymbolism — Maya  thought  founded  on  operations  of  the 
^Celestial     bodies — Primitive     astrology — The     "  Cosmic 
Symphony  " — Development    of    arcane    thought — Quet- 
zalcoatl  as  embodiment  of  the  cult  of  rain — System  of 
./dualism — Arcane  meanings  drawn  from  seasonal  signifi- 
cance— The  victory  of  Black  Magic  in  Mexico — Human 
%4  sacrifice  takes  the  place  of  the  lore  of  light — Enlightened 
opposition  to  Black  Magic — Nature  of  Mexican  wisdom- 
religion — Almost  certainly  an  importation — Its  tenets — 
Enshrined  a  system  of  initiation — The  phases  of  Mexican 
initiation — Their    analogy    to    other    initiatory    forms — 
Tlaloc  and  the  Minotaur — The  Mexican  ball  game  and 
dualism — The  Black  Mysteries  of  Tezcatlipoca — Faust  in 
^V  Mexico — Tezcatlipoca  as  a  "  fallen  angel  " — "  Bowing  the 
knee  to  Mammon  " — Christianity  and  Mexican  Paganism 
— The  noble  effort  of  Quetzalcoatl — The  "  silent  praise," 
or  contemplation  of  the  divine — The  tireless  war  of  evil. 


TEZCATLIPOCA  AS  A  WER-JAGUAR        .          .  Frontispiece 


MEXICO  AT  THE  TIME  OF  THE  MONTEZUMAS         .         .       36 
THE  MEXICAN  EARTH-MOTHER    .....       46 


TLAZOLTEOTL,  QUEEN  OF  THE  WITCHES       .         .         .130 
DAY-SIGNS  OF  THE  MEXICAN  CALENDAR      .         .         .146 
QUETZALCOATL  IN  HIS  MEXICAN  FORM         .          .          .176 
MAYA  HIEROGLYPHS  .         .         .         .         .         .186 

THE  "  ALPHABET  "  OF  MAYA  GODS    ....     198 



A  PAGE  FROM  THE  DRESDEN  CODEX  .  .  .  258 




THE  Magic  of  ancient  Mexico  and  the  mys- 
teries which  accompanied  it  have  been 
somewhat  neglected  owing  to  the  extra- 
ordinary difficulties  attending  the  consideration  of 
the  Mexican  past.  Only  within  the  last  generation 
has  it  been  made  possible  to  comprehend  even  dimly 
the  civilization  of  ancient  Mexico  as  a  whole  and  that 
has  been  accomplished  merely  in  a  provisional  manner. 
It  is  therefore  not  surprising  that  the  occult  side  of 
Mexican  life  has  been  dealt  with  only  in  a  fragmentary 
way,  and  chiefly  in  connection  with  the  religious 
beliefs  of  the  Aztecs  and  Maya. 

The  writings  of  the  Spanish  missionary  friars  who 
laboured  in  Mexico  subsequent  to  the  period  of  its 
conquest  by  Cortes  frequently  touch  in  the  passing 
on  the  question  of  the  arcane  beliefs  of  the  Indians 
to  whom  they  ministered,  but  in  no  very  illuminating 
manner.  Indeed,  their  notices  of  occult  beliefs  are 
confused  and  exhibit  a  not  incomprehensible  terror 
of  the  dark  knowledge  which  they  conceived  it  their 
duty  to  extirpate.  It  is  therefore  not  easy  to  arrive 
at  the  facts  and  discover  the  principles  underlying 
Mexican  arcane  science. 
B  17 


In  the  following  pages  I  shall  essay  the  task,  aided, 
I  hope,  by  a  long  acquaintance  with  the  writings  of 
the  Spanish  conquistadores  and  the  missionary  friars, 
and  with  practically  all  that  has  been  penned  within 
our  times  on  the  subject  of  old  Mexico.  And  it  may 
be  that  a  strong  personal  predilection  towards  the 
mysterious  may  further  assist  me  to  make  the  dark 
places  plain  to  the  wayfaring  reader. 

Mexico  possessed  a  magic  of  her  own  a^jnysticalin 
its  essence  and  as  grimly  romantic  as  that.Qf.JanyjSa3, 
European  or  Asiatic.  Yet  its  secrets  are  to  be  gauged 
only  by  treading  many  obscure  and  difficult  pathways. 
If  those  who  follow  me  in  the  quest  find  any  of  these 
corridors  too  dark  or  too  difficult  of  access  they  must 
not  blame  me,  but  rather  the  tortuous  nature  of  the 
study.  I  would  advise  them  to  "  skip  "  the  obscure 
passages  and  to  turn  to  those  pages  which  retain 
more  of  the  atmosphere  of  that  purely  dramatic 
interest  which  must  ever  cleave  to  the  occult  lore  of 
Mexico  and  Central  America. 

But  the  magic  and  sorcery  of  ancient  Mexico  cannot 
well  be  understood  unless  the  somewhat  shadowy 
path  which  leads  to  them  is  rendered  more  clear  by 
a  brief  account  of  the  general  circumstances  of  Mexi- 
can life  and  custom  in  the  past.  When  Hernan 
Cortes  conquered  Mexico  in  1519  he  found  it  occupied 
by  several  races  of  people  of  Indian  stock,  who  pos- 
sessed a  common  culture,  although  they  differed  in 
language  and  to  some  extent  in  religious  outlook. 

In  the  eastern  regions  the  Nahua  race,  to  which 
the  Aztecs  belonged,  was  in  the  ascendant,  but  the 
coastline  was  occupied  by  immigrant  tribes  of  Maya 
or  southern  stock  from  Central  America.  In  the 
south-west  the  Mixtecs  and  Zapotecs,  races  which 
had  embraced  civilization  before  the  Nahua,  formed 
the  bulk  of  the  population,  though  Nahua  elements 
were  also  largely  present  in  that  region.  In  the 


centre  of  the  country  dwelt  the  Otomi,  the  Zacatecs, 
and  other  long-settled  tribes,  whilst  the  northern 
pampas  were  the  possession  of  nomadic  bands.  To 
the  south-east  of  Mexico  lived  the  Maya  of  Guate- 
mala, Yucatan,  and  Central  America,  whose  civiliza- 
tion greatly  pre-dated  that  of  Mexico  proper,  as  we 
shall  see  when  we  come  to  consider  their  special 

The  Nahua,  or  Aztecs,  with  whom  we  are  princi- 
pally concerned,  were  a  people  of  much  later  estab- 
lishment in  the  country  than  most  of  the  other  races. 
They  occupied  a  sphere  extending  from  the  present 
site  of  Tlascala,  no  great  distance  from  Mexico  City, 
to  the  Isthmus  of  Tehuantepec  on  the  south,  and  were 
divided  into  tribes,  most  of  whom  owed  allegiance 
to  the  Emperor  of  Mexico,  although  they  were 
governed  by  their  own  immediate  kings  or  chiefs. 
Research  has  established  the  distant  relationship  of 
the  Nahua  tribes  with  the  Indians  of  British  Columbia, 
whose  language,  customs,  religion  and  art  bear  a 
close  resemblance  to  those  of  the  Mexicans,  who,  in 
all  likelihood,  migrated  at  various  periods  to  the 
region  in  which  they  are  presently  situated. 

At  the  time  of  the  Spanish  Conquest  we  find 
several  Nahua  tribes  grouped  round  the  lakes  in  the 
Valley  of  Mexico,  the  most  notable  being  those  which 
occupied  the  borders  of  the  Lake  of  Tezcuco.  The 
tribes  composing  these  groups  had  entered  the  plateau 
of  Mexico  about  the  tenth  century  A.D.,  but  had  been 
preceded  there  by  a  much  older  civilization,  the 
Toltec.  Legend  said  that  the  Toltecs  had  settled 
there  in  the  year  7  Tecpatl,  or  A.D.  387,  coming  from 
the  north  by  way  of  the  coast  and  then  striking  inland, 
a  journey  which  occupied  one  hundred  and  four  years. 
But  the  myth  which  recounts  this  exodus  is  almost 
certainly  of  artificial  origin.  The  Toltecs  were 
regarded  by  the  older  writers  on  Mexican  affairs  as 


the  great  initiators  and  conservators  of  the  occult 
sciences,  magic  and  astrology. 

Perhaps  no  argument  in  the  once  passionate  forum 
of  American  Archseology  was  formerly  debated  with 
such  splenetic  vigour  and  breadth  of  invective  as  the 
obscure  and  intricate  question  of  the  origin  and 
identity  of  that  earliest  and  most  mysterious  among 
the  civilized  races  of  Mexico,  the  Toltecs.  In  their 
simplicity  the  first  Castilian  chroniclers  of  the  affairs 
of  New  Spain  accepted  without  demur  the  native 
traditions  which  exalted  the  culture  of  this  shadowy 
race  to  a  pitch  which,  as  Prescott  puts  it,  "  almost 
transcends  the  human."  They  write  of  the  clever 
architects  and  potters  of  the  city  of  Tollan,  which 
lay  about  forty  miles  north  of  Mexico,  as  inspired 
sages  from  whom  none  of  the  secrets  of  ancient 
civilization  and  few  of  those  of  modernity  were 
hidden,  and  vaunt  in  epical  periods  the  astonishing 
excellence  of  the  culture  which  they  were  believed  to 
have  spread  broadcast  over  North  America.  The 
ruler  of  this  Mexican  Corinth  was  that  Quetzalcoatl 
who  is  so  frequently  mentioned  in  Indian  tradition 
as  the  bringer  of  all  culture  and  enlightenment  to  the 
American  isthmian  regions.  His  descendants,  we  are 
assured,  ruled  in  Tollan  for  several  centuries,  but  were 
at  last  finally  defeated  and  dispersed  by  barbarous 
Nahua  invaders  from  the  north,  who  destroyed  the 
brilliant  metropolis  of  the  Toltecs,  and  scattered  its 
inhabitants,  noblesse  and  plebeians  alike,  to  the  ends 
of  the  American  continent. 

These  accounts  were,  for  the  most  part,  based  on 
the  histories  of  the  half-blood  chronicler  Ixtlilxochitl, 
whose  relationship  with  the  ancient  kings  of  Tezcuco, 
a  famous  town  near  Mexico  City,  manifestly  biassed 
his  conclusions.  Nevertheless,  these  were  credited  by 
Mexican  and  foreign  antiquaries  alike  from  the  end 
of  the  sixteenth  century  almost  to  the  middle  of  the 


nineteenth.  The  doubts  hesitated  by  Prescott,  how- 
ever, were  more  vigorously  expressed  by  Daniel 
Garrison  Brinton,  the  foremost  Americanist  of  his 
day,  who  in  1887  published  an  essay,  "  Were  the 
Toltecs  an  Historic  Nationality  ? "  in  which  he 
settled  the  question  to  his  own  satisfaction  by  the 
dogmatic  assertion  that  the  Toltecs  were  a  sept  of 
the  Nahua  or  Aztec  race  whose  sun-myths  had  sur- 
rounded their  fragmentary  history  with  a  legendary 
brilliance  which  had  the  effect  of  dazzling  those  who 
chronicled  them  with  visions  of  a  civilization  which 
never  existed.  "  The  mythical  Tollan,"  he  wrote, 
"  and  all  its  rulers  and  inhabitants,  are  the  baseless 
dreams  of  poetic  fancy,  which  we  principally  owe  to 
the  Tezcucan  poets.  I  have  no  hesitation  in  repeating 
the  words  which  I  printed  some  years  ago  :  '  Is  it 
not  time  that  we  dismiss  once  for  all  these  American 
myths  from  the  domain  of  historical  traditions  ?  Why 
should  we  make  an  enlightened  ruler  of  Quetzalcoatl, 
a  cultured  nation  of  the  Toltecs,  when  the  proof  is 
of  the  strongest  that  they  are  the  fictions  of  myth- 
ology ?  '  " 

For  a  couple  of  decades  Brinton's  statement  was 
accepted,  in  official  quarters  at  least,  as  final.  But 
reaction  from  statements  so  positive  was  bound  to 
set  in.  From  1873  to  1887  Charnay,  the  French 
archaeologist,  had  been  excavating  at  intervals  on  the 
site  of  Tollan,  the  Toltec  city,  and  his  researches  there 
made  it  evident  that  the  locality  had  at  some  distant 
period  produced  a  culture  in  some  ways  markedly 
dissimilar  from  that  of  the  later  Aztecs  on  the  one 
hand,  and  on  the  other  from  the  civilization  of  the 
Maya  of  Central  America.  It  became  increasingly 
clear  that  some  definite  name  and  description  must 
be  conferred  upon  a  civilization  possessing  such  well- 
marked  architectural  and  other  attributes  of  its  own, 
and,  by  degrees  almost  imperceptible,  the  old  name 


of  "  Toltec  "  was  once  more  employed  by  archaeolo- 
gists to  designate  the  peculiar  type  of  art  and  the 
strange  symbolism  which  flourished  not  only  in 
Tollan,  but  whose  rather  isolated  monuments  are  to 
be  encountered  at  intervals  almost  over  the  entire 
length  of  the  isthmian  area  of  America. 

It  was,  however,  universally  admitted  that  Toltec 
culture  could  scarcely  have  preceded  that  of  the  Maya 
of  Central  America.  The  antiquity  of  the  Maya  cities 
of  Guatemala  indisputably  reaches  back  to  at  least 
the  first  century  before  the  Christian  era,  whereas  no 
origin  more  venerable  could  possibly  be  assigned  to 
Toltec  civilization  than  the  seventh  century  A.D. 
The  contention,  too,  that  the  Toltecs  were  themselves 
Maya  who  imported  Central  American  progress  into 
the  Mexican  tableland  was  regarded  as  impossible  of 
acceptance  for  the  good  reason  that  the  ancient 
chroniclers  were  unanimous  that  the  Toltecs  were  a 
people  of  Mexican  or  Nahua  origin,  speaking  a  Nahua 
tongue.  But  the  comparative  study  of  their  archi- 
tecture, symbolism  and  traditions  with  that  of  the 
Maya  clearly  demonstrated  that  at  some  stage  of  their 
development  they  must  have  been  in  close  touch  with 
Maya  civilization.  To  render  the  puzzle  still  more 
involved,  there  were  not  wanting  monumental  evi- 
dences of  a  Toltec  cultural  invasion  of  the  Maya 
country  of  Yucatan,  especially  in  the  religious  and 
other  edifices  of  the  cities  of  Ake,  Uxmal,  and  Chichen 
Itza,  where  the  peculiar  Toltec  serpent-shaped 
columns  and  balustrades,  open-work  decoration  on 
the  tops  of  the  temple  walls  and  caryatid  pillars,  as 
well  as  hieroglyphs  of  Toltec  design,  are  to  be  found. 
But  these  were  obviously  later  in  date  than  the 
corresponding  remains  in  Mexico. 

By  a  careful  review  of  all  the  available  data, 
Holmes,  Seler,  Haebler  and  Spinden  have  made  it 
clear  that  in  the  first  place  Mexico  must  have  been 


indebted  for  her  earliest  culture  to  Maya  sources.  It 
was  already  known  that  an  early  Maya  people,  the 
Huaxtecs,  had  in  primitive  times  worked  their  way 
from  Central  America  up  the  east  coast  of  Mexico, 
where  their  remains  still  show  obvious  Maya  associa- 
tions. A  border  tribe  migrating  between  the  races, 
the  Kuikatecs,  are  also  more  than  suspect  of  culture- 
carrying  from  south  to  north.  The  Nahua  people  of 
Oaxaca,  too,  the  Zapotecs,  possessed  a  culture  mid- 
way between  the  Nahua  and  Maya  types.  The 
traditions  were  also  insistent  that  progress  in  both 
the  Maya  and  Mexican  spheres  of  civilization  had 
been  introduced  by  a  culture-hero  known  as  Quetzal- 
coatl,  who  in  the  more  northern  area  was  regarded 
as  a  deified  king  of  the  Toltecs,  while  in  Central 
America  he  was  worshipped  as  a  god  of  wind  and 
moisture.  The  cult  of  this  god  was  markedly  alien 
to  Mexican  ideas  of  human  sacrifice,  with  which  his 
worship  was  not  associated,  therefore  it  was  manifest 
that  his  ritual  must  be  of  foreign  and  intrusive  origin. 
Moreover,  he  was  credited  with  the  introduction  of 
the  tonalamatl,  or  Book  of  Fate,  which  was  certainly 
Maya  in  its  beginnings. 

Still,  the  clearly  non-Maya  racial  origin  of  the  Tol- 
tecs continued  to  perplex  Americanists,  who  main- 
tained a  non-committal  and  conservative  attitude  on 
the  question  of  Toltec  origins.  Indeed,  though  the 
monuments  traditionally  connected  with  the  race  are 
now  definitely  classed  as  "  Toltec,"  official  Ameri- 
canist science  has  not  yet  committed  itself  to  any 
clear  expression  of  opinion  regarding  the  racial 
affinities  of  this  mysterious  people. 

If  a  solution  may  be  ventured  by  one  who  has 
followed  the  controversy  with  fascinated  interest  for 
nearly  a  generation,  some  such  explanation  as  that 
which  follows  may  serve  as  a  working  hypothesis. 
We  are  aware  that  at  some  time  in  the  sixth  century 


of  the  Christian  era  the  Maya  settlements  in  Guate- 
mala were  more  or  less  suddenly  vacated  by  their 
inhabitants.  We  do  not  know  what  prompted  this 
hasty  and  wholesale  desertion  of  the  splendid  cities 
of  Palenque,  Copan,  and  the  neighbouring  states. 
Perhaps  pestilence  or  invasion  dictated  their  evacua- 
tion, but,  judging  from  the  almost  perfect  state  of 
repair  in  which  their  temples  and  palaces  still  remain, 
it  seems  probable  that  their  inhabitants  set  out  on 
their  northern  pilgrimage  on  one  of  those  religious 
quests  which  frequently  inspired  the  Maya  race. 
They  entered  the  peninsula  of  Yucatan,  and  in  that 
region  continued,  if  they  did  not  surpass,  the  archi- 
tectural triumphs  of  the  southern  fatherland.  But, 
in  the  opinion  of  the  writer,  not  all  of  them  took  this 
route.  Others  probably  pushed  northward  into 
Mexico  and  found  their  way,  perhaps  in  bands  of 
restricted  numbers,  to  the  neighbourhood  of  Tollan 
and  elsewhere  in  that  region,  where,  following  the 
example  of  their  kindred  in  Yucatan,  they  established 
new  settlements.  Not  only  does  the  founding  of 
Tollan  synchronize  with  the  Maya  exodus,  but  the 
name  of  the  city  was  that  of  the  mythical  home  and 
starting-place  of  the  Maya  tribes,  and  it  is  obvious 
from  their  traditions  that  the  Mexican  Tollan  took 
its  name  from  an  older  and  probably  legendary  Maya 

Tollan  was  probably  founded  in  the  seventh  century 
of  our  era.  It  probably  existed  for  several  centuries 
before  the  gradual  entrance  of  the  barbarous  Nahua 
peoples,  the  Chichimecs,  Aztecs,  and  other  tribes,  into 
the  Valley  of  Mexico.  Tradition  says  that  they  over- 
threw the  city,  but  good  grounds  appear  for  the 
assumption  that  it  had  been  deserted  for  some  con- 
siderable time  prior  to  their  arrival.  I  believe  an 
interregnum  of  comparative  unoccupation  to  have 
occurred  between  the  invasion  of  two  separate  waves 



of  Nahua  or  Mexican  immigration.  But  it  seems 
inevitable  that  many  people  of  Maya  stock  would 
have  remained  in  the  neighbourhood  of  Tollan  after 
the  first  Nahua  invasion,  and  that  they  would  mingle 
with  the  invaders,  to  whom  they  would  pass  on  the 
Maya  culture.  This  mixed  race,  Maya  and  Mexican, 
I  believe  to  have  been  the  Toltecs,  who,  in  their  turn, 
were  overwhelmed  by  the  second  wave  of  Nahua 
immigrants  into  the  Valley  of  Mexico. 

This  would  account  for  the  circumstance  that  the 
Toltecs  were  said  to  have  been  Nahua,  and  that  they 
spoke  the  Nahua  language.  As  regards  their  later 
entrance  into  the  Central  American  sphere,  where 
their  architectural  remains  are  found,  it  is  definitely 
stated  in  many  authentic  documents  that  mer- 
cenaries of  the  Nahua  race  served  in  the  armies  of  the 
Northern  Maya  Confederation  in  Yucatan,  where  they 
acted  as  a  species  of  Mamelukes  or  Janissaries,  helping 
the  Maya  rulers  to  keep  their  people  in  the  grip  of  one 
of  the  cruellest  ecclesiastical  tyrannies  the  world  has 
ever  seen.  These  mercenaries  made  Chichen  Itza  in 
Yucatan  their  headquarters  towards  the  end  of  the 
twelfth  century.  This  antedates  the  foundation  of 
Mexico  City,  and  at  that  epoch  Toltec  art  had  not 
yet  become  merged  into  the  more  modern  Mexican 
or  Aztec  phase  in  which  Cortes  and  his  companions 
found  it.  If  these  conclusions  are  found  acceptable — 
and  they  have  the  support  of  historical  fact,  as  well 
as  that  of  their  own  inherent  probability — they  may, 
perhaps,  serve  as  a  temporary  solution  of  the  problem 
of  Toltec  origins  until  such  time  as  further  excavation 
and  research  cast  fresh  light  in  an  enigma  which  has 
baffled  inquirers  into  the  past  of  America  since  the 
credulous  century  of  Las  Casas  and  Torquemada. 

In  the  following  narrative  of  the  fall  of  the  Toltec 
power  I  have  associated  legend  and  probability  with 
fiction  in  an  effort  to  supply  the  reader  with  a  general 


view  of  the  wondrous  culture  of  the  people  of  Quetzal- 
coatl  and  the  cause  of  their  national  and  racial 

Near  a  thousand  years  have  passed  since  Tollan 
fell ;  and  this  is  the  saga  of  its  ruin.  Now  shall  you 
hear  how  that  sin-laden  city  of  the  dark-souled 
Toltecs  crashed  to  dust  and  death  beneath  the  spite 
of  the  offended  gods.  Hearken,  then  ;  but  remember 
that  there  is  that  which  is  stronger  than  the  gods, 
stronger  than  time — for  while  the  memory  of  Tollan, 
the  city  of  hidden  ecstasies  and  of  men  whose  thoughts 
were  beyond  good  and  evil,  lives  in  the  dreams  of 
but  a  few,  if  these  few  are  as  its  sons,  Tollan  lives  still. 
Is  the  soul  of  Pompeii  dead  ?  Is  the  spirit  of  Babylon 
a  withered  thing  ? 

Tollan,  city  of  the  Toltecs,  the  race  that  preceded 
the  Nahua  Aztec  of  Mexico,  ruled  the  valley  and  its 
subject  races  for  wellnigh  half  a  thousand  years. 
Great  were  its  men  in  artistry,  so  that  with  the  folk 
of  those  days  to  say  "  Toltec  "  was  as  who  should 
say  "  craftsman."  Happy  the  people  the  use  of 
whose  name  is  a  constant  praise  on  the  lips  of  men. 

Where  are  the  songs  of  Tollan  ?  Under  the  hard 
soil  of  the  sad  mound  of  Tula  we  still  find  its  carven 
capitals,  its  curious  cups,  its  gems  and  gauds,  the 
variegated  fragments  of  its  glowing  and  many- 
coloured  life.  Its  foundations  are  laid  bare  to  the  sun, 
its  vases,  its  peristyles  and  columns,  its  chiselled 
portals  even  in  the  riot  of  ruin,  in  the  despond  of 
mutilation,  fill  men's  mouths  with  praise  and  their 
eyes  with  tears.  But  where  are  its  songs  ?  Do  they 
still  live  in  Indian  lays,  are  they  still  to  be  heard 
when  the  tortillas  are  being  rolled  and  the  maguey 
tapped  of  its  wine  ? 

One  of  its  songs  I  heard,  the  song  of  Huemac,  the 
saga  of  the  downfall  of  Tollan,  the  city  of  artists. 


On  a  day  when  the  chiselled  walls  resounded  to  the 
chorus  of  the  Festival  of  Flowers,  Huemac  the  King 
took  his  instruments  of  music  and  his  painting  tools 
and,  casting  his  crown  on  the  floor  of  mosaic,  called 
to  his  son  to  pick  it  up  and  wear  it  in  his  stead  if  so 
he  chose — and  having  done  so,  he  went  forth  to  his 
villa  outside  the  walls,  followed  by  a  great  company 
of  musicians  and  men  who  were  cunning  in  the  draw- 
ing of  poems — poems  in  which  the  written  words  were 
no  mere  meaningless  signs,  but  birds,  beasts,  trees, 
flowers  and  mountains. 

Now,  as  Huemac  passed  through  the  forest-ways 
alone — for  he  had  bade  those  who  accompanied  him 
leave  him  to  his  thoughts  of  song — he  was  astonished 
by  a  brightness  which  fell  athwart  his  path  ;  and 
behold,  before  him  there  stood  the  god  Tlaloc,  in  the 
awfulness  of  his  majesty.  His  face  was  terrible  with 
the  lines  of  tempest,  and  from  his  curved  snout  pro- 
jected the  gleaming  serpent  fangs.  The  blue  stripe 
palpitated  upon  his  cheekbone  ;  his  eye  gleamed  as 
a  fire  behind  a  thicket.  His  robe  was  spangled  with 
silver,  symbol  of  the  element  he  ruled.  For  a  space 
the  great  god  of  the  clouds  gloomed  upon  the  King  ; 
then  he  spake,  and  his  voice  was  as  the  seed  of 
thunder  when  it  has  birth  behind  the  mountains 
and  ere  yet  it  has  grown  into  the  fuller  oratory  of 

"  Huemac,"  said  the  god,  "  wherefore  hast  thou 
done  this  thing — wherefore  given  thy  crown  to  a 
bastard  ?  " 

Huemac  trembled,  and  his  heart  became  as  water 
within  him.  No  word  could  he  utter. 

"  Speak  !  "  cried  the  god,  with  an  awful  gesture  of 
command.  "  Let  thine  evil  lips  defend  thy  wicked 
heart  if  so  they  may,  O  Huemac." 

14  Is  he  not  mine  own  flesh  and  blood,  O  divine 
one  ?  "  faltered  Huemac.  "  Many  sons  have  I,  but 


is  he  not  the  fairest  and  the  most  fitted  of  all  to  wear 
the  crown  ?  " 

"Huemac,"  thundered  the  god,  "  from  the  first 
has  thy  heart  been  dark  and  alien  to  my  law.  But 
thou  art  of  the  blood  of  the  gods,  therefore  shalt  thou 
be  spared.  But  not  so  thy  son,  in  whose  veins 
the  divine  blood  has  become  polluted.  Long  hath 
thy  race  offended  heaven,  and  now  shall  it  be 
destroyed  utterly  along  with  the  accursed  city  it 
has  raised." 

"  Mercy,  O  divine  one,"  gasped  Huemac,  prostrat- 
ing himself.  "  Mercy,  O  lord  of  many  waters." 

"  The  day  for  mercy  is  past,"  replied  the  god 
harshly,  and  wrapt  himself  in  a  black  cloud  from 
which  darted  the  mordant  lines  of  lightning.  Huemac 
gazed  after  it  until  it  disappeared  as  one  deprived  of 
sense  and  motion,  and  then  rising  slowly  and  mightily 
a-tremble,  returned  to  the  city. 

He  found  his  son  with  Urendequa,  chief  of  the 
dancers.  Now  this  woman  was  past  her  prime  and 
ill-favoured  of  face.  But  of  all  the  women  in  Tollan, 
she  was  most  desired.  The  Prince,  now  King,  lay 
with  his  crowned  head  in  her  lap  in  the  chamber  of 
shells,  picked  from  sea-beaches  far  away  and  en- 
crusted on  bricks  of  silver.  The  pair  paid  little 
attention  to  Huemac's  entrance,  but  when  they 
marked  his  face  they  rose  hastily. 

44  Acxitl,"  he  cried,  embracing  his  son,  "  Acxitl, 
the  prophecy  has  come  to  pass.  We  are  a  race 
accursed  of  the  gods.  I  have  seen  and  spoken  with 
Tlaloc.  He  hath  cursed  us  and  our  city  because  I 
have  bestowed  my  place  upon  you." 

44  Since  when  did  the  gods  dictate  their  way  to  the 
sons  of  Hueymatzin  ?  "  sneered  Acxitl,  slim,  sallow, 
languorous,  with  a  heavy  mouth  and  woman's  brows. 
44  Since  when  did  Tollan  cry  mercy  from  the  dotards 
of  heaven  ?  " 


Urendequa  laughed  deep  down  in  her  bosom,  but 
Huemac  paled  and  trembled. 

"  Peace  !  "  he  cried.  "  We  are  a  race  accursed. 
We  must  no  more  blaspheme  but  placate  the  gods. 
Let  us  hasten  to  the  Quetzalcoatl  Teohuatzin,  the 
High  Priest,  and  hearken  to  him  how  perchance  we 
may  avoid  the  ruin  that  is  near  us." 

But  the  sneer  was  heavy  upon  the  thick  lips  of 
Acxitl.  "  Let  us  hasten  to  where  the  scented  octli 
glitters  in  the  cup,  O  my  father,"  he  said  soothingly 
but  mockingly.  "  Let  us  forget  what  the  god-fool 
hath  uttered.  Come  !  " 

But  Huemac  shrank  back.  "  It  may  not  be,  son," 
he  muttered.  "  Go  thou  and  feast  if  so  it  please 
thee,  but  as  for  me,  I  will  betake  me  to  the  temple." 

"  Every  man  to  where  his  soul  leads  him,"  replied 
Acxitl,  lightly.  "  Come,  Urendequa,"  and  linking  his 
arm  in  that  of  the  dancer,  he  went  forth.  Huemac 
followed  them,  and  watched  them  trip  lightly  down 
the  carven  staircase  to  the  banqueting  hall.  Then  he 
crossed  the  courtyard  and  wended  slowly  up  the  hill- 
side to  where  stood  the  temple  of  Quetzal.  As  he 
reached  its  portals  he  turned  and  surveyed  the  city 
beneath  him,  lying  under  the  red  veils  of  the  evening, 
smouldering  and  glittering  in  the  immense  last  out- 
pourings of  the  sun.  The  walls  rich  with  mosaic  and 
rare  stones,  glistened  in  faint  pearl  and  argentine. 
Vermilion,  iris,  and  the  shimmer  of  sea-stone  rose 
from  roof  and  capital,  cornice,  and  pilaster.  The 
city,  planned  after  no  plan  but  as  in  a  dream-night's 
rhapsody,  hung  between  the  mists  of  the  plain  and 
the  golden  peninsulas  of  the  clouds  as  an  island  of 
phantasy — a  rare  shell  for  the  enclosing  of  some  rich 
and  melodious  secret,  the  coffer  holding  a  life's 
desire,  the  inaccessible  home  of  a  music  which  it  was 
not  man's  to  grasp,  of  a  fire  which  only  a  demi-god 
might  come  at  and  filch  for  earth-use. 


As  Huemac  gazed  on  in  love  and  dismay  the  soft 
innocence  of  evening  descended  with  dove's  wings 
upon  the  roofs  and  quenched  the  fires  of  sun-blood. 
A  pale  and  curving  moon  swam  pearl-like  in  the 
unimpassioned  sea  of  air,  quivering  at  first  like  a 
butterfly  which  sought  to  reach  the  sun's  candle  and 
fall  into  its  heart.  The  satyr-shapes  of  night  came 
down,  and  dancing,  skirted  the  forest,  flowers  folded 
and  the  stars  came  forth.  A  great  and  vastly  solemn 
calm  fell  on  everything — even  the  very  stones  seemed 
to  have  found  a  deeper  quality  of  death.  The  sun 
went  out,  and  Huemac  climbed  the  temple  stairs  in 
the  darkness  to  drink  the  hope  of  prayer. 

Right  rich  was  that  feast-chamber  where  Acxitl 
sat  with  Urendequa,  they  two  alone.  For  the  others 
had  gone  to  the  house  of  Huemac  outside  the  walls, 
thinking  there  to  find  music  and  songs,  little  wotting 
that  Huemac  was  stretched  on  his  face  in  the  white 
temple  of  Quetzal  high  up  on  the  hill.  The  soft  chime 
of  golden  cups  and  the  tinkle  of  the  silver  bells  fringing 
the  painted  curtains  as  the  evening  air  stole  in  and 
out  of  the  place  were  louder  than  the  whispers  of 
Acxitl  and  Urendequa  the  dancer.  The  high  chamber, 
with  its  narrow  walls  stamped  in  frette  and  painted 
in  sombre  reds  with  a  frieze  of  feathered  gods  in 
panoply  of  war  or  worship,  was  meet  for  whisperers. 
Stark,  clean,  complete,  decisive  its  plan,  yet  shadowed, 
the  strong  thing  veiled,  the  sharp  thing  rounded  by 
shade  rather  than  by  chisel — the  primal  and  gigan- 
tesque  screened  by  the  mysterious.  Here  had  been 
carven  a  bas-relief  of  the  loves  of  Tlazolteotl, 
lewd  goddess  of  luxury,  the  work  done  by  the 
light  of  torches  so  that  it  might  only  be  revealed 
beneath  the  tints  of  the  glow  in  which  it  had  been 

Urendequa  spoke.  "  So  you  do  not  tremble  ?  "  she 


Acxitl  smiled  slowly.  "  Tremble  ?  "  he  said,  "  at 
what,  I  pray  you,  Urendequa  ?  " 

"  At  the  wrath  of  the  gods." 

"  My  friend,"  he  said,  "  you  have  lived  forty  years 
— as  a  dancer — do  you  find  aught  to  tremble  at  in  the 
thought  of  death  ?  " 

"  Aye,"  she  replied.  "  Aye,  one  thing  makes  me 

"  That  you  may  not  dance  in  Mictlan  ?  " 

"  Aye  so  ;  death  ends  all  art." 

"  But  age  ;  does  not  that  end  the  dancer's  art  ?  " 

"  It  is  so,  Prince.  I  am  weary  ;  I  cannot  foot  it 
as  when  I  first  danced  before  your  father.  My  body 
grows  heavy.  Five  years  ago  I  feared  death  as  the 
extinguisher  of  art ;  since  then  I  had  not  thought  of 
it.  Now — this  night — I  see  death  as  a  disrobing-room 
where  there  is  rest  for  those  who  have  danced  out 
their  dance.  But  you  are  young  and  your  limbs  are 
supple.  You  are  young  and  wise.  Why  should  you 
desire  death  ?  " 

"  O  Urendequa,"  replied  the  Prince,  "  well  has  it 
been  said  that  the  wisdom  of  women — aye,  even  of 
the  wisest  woman — is  tethered  to  the  earth.  I  am 
wise — therefore  I  see  this  love  of  life  and  art  to  be 
but  a  snare,  a  bait  which  the  unskilful  gods  have  laid 
to  keep  us  here.  Who  lacking  the  instinct  of  life  or 
the  love  of  art  would  not  willingly  go  down  into  the 
vapours  of  Mictlan  ?  I  tell  you  these  gods — they  have 
miscarven  this  ugly  world,  but  for  the  credit  of  their 
godhead  they  must  pretend  that  it  is  good.  Hence 
have  they  cursed  us  with  a  love  of  life  so  that  we  may 
not  affront  them  by  fleeing  the  prison  to  which  they 
have  doomed  us.  'Tis  well  for  them  to  measure  out 
a  way  for  us.  Oh,  how  easy  it  is  for  a  god  to  point 
the  way  to  man,  and  how  simple  it  were  for  a  man  to 
play  the  god." 

"  But  this  curse  ;   no  philosophy  will " 


"  I  do  not  seek  to  meet  it  with  philosophy.  I  will 
play  my  manhood  against  their  divinity.  They  curse 
me  because  I  am  a  man  and  not  of  their  blood.  I  do 
not  seek  life.  But  let  the  blame  for  my  taking  off 
rest  upon  them  alone.  So  shall  it  be  said,  '  They  slew 
him  because  he  found  them  out.'  " 

A  sound  as  of  a  great  tempest  rushed  through  the 
chamber  and  the  torches  flickered,  waved,  and  went 
out.  Urendequa  screamed  ;  Acxitl  laughed. 

"  Fools,"  he  snarled.  "  Strike  if  ye  will,  but  spare 
me  such  buffoonery  as  this  !  "  And  he  called  for 
torches.  The  faces  of  those  who  brought  them  seemed 
pallid,  and  they  trembled  greatly. 

"  There  is  small  need  for  torches,  lord,"  faltered 
one.  "  Behold  !  "  and  drawing  aside  the  curtain  from 
an  open  casement,  he  pointed  to  where  two  great 
volcanoes  which  overlooked  Tollan  belched  black  and 
red  into  the  emerald  night.  Above  them,  shadowed 
on  the  sky,  grisly  apparitions  reared  their  heads, 
threatening  the  city  with  terrible  menace.  Urendequa 
clapped  her  hands  over  her  eyes  and  sank  into  her 
seat,  moaning  softly.  Acxitl  gave  a  thin,  sneering 
laugh  and  stood  looking  on  as  at  a  juggling  enter- 
tainment, applauding  now  and  again  when  a  more 
than  usually  gorgeous  effect  of  colour  emanated  from 
one  or  other  of  the  volcanoes,  or  when  the  gestures  of 
the  mighty  shades  above  them  waxed  more  vehement 
and  threatening. 

There  was  a  hurrying  of  crowds  through  the  streets 
as  people  sought  the  temple.  Voices  cried  out  in  the 
extreme  of  woe  and  terror.  Far  away  sounded  the 
monotonous  beating  of  a  great  drum.  The  sin  of  the 
Toltecs  had  found  them  out.  The  air  was  thick  with 
falling  ashes  and  scoriae,  and  the  vengeful  mutterings 
coming  from  the  volcanoes  had  now  swelled  into  the 
most  terrific  reverberations,  which  shook  the  city 
from  wall  to  wall,  so  that  the  gorgeous  houses  rocked 


and  the  place  of  banquet  in  which  Acxitl  and 
Urendequa  still  remained  swayed  like  a  ship  in  the 
hollows  of  the  sea. 

"  Save  thyself,  Prince  !  "  cried  a  voice  in  passing, 
the  owner  of  which  had  evidently  recognized  Acxitl. 
44  Save  thyself,  for  the  anger  of  the  gods  has  come 
upon  us."  But  Acxitl  only  smiled.  A  great  stone 
from  one  of  the  volcanoes  struck  the  casement  above 
his  head,  but  he  moved  not.  Urendequa  seized  and 
dragged  him  from  the  window  as  Huemac  dashed  into 
the  room.  In  the  awful  half-light  of  the  smoky  con- 
flagration they  saw  that  the  old  King's  face  was  white 
as  parchment  and  his  eyes  a  deeper  red  than  fire. 

44  Fly,"  he  cried.  44  Waste  not  a  moment,  boy. 
The  Chichimecs  are  at  the  gates  !  " 

The  Chichimecs,  the  Huns  of  the  Mexican  plateau, 
hung  ever  upon  the  Toltec  borders,  their  wolfish 
bands  patrolling  it  for  the  capture  of  merchant 
caravans  or  wealthy  travellers.  For  generations  they 
had  menaced  Tollan.  Now  they  were  at  her  gates 
clamouring  for  entrance  so  that  they  might  spoil  her 
and  return  to  enrich  their  mound-temples  with  her 
golden  cups  and  gauds  of  ritual.  Already  the  clash 
of  weapons  and  the  shouts  of  men  in  combat  could 
be  heard  at  the  gate  hard  by  the  palace. 

But  Acxitl  stirred  not. 

"  Up,  Prince  !  "  cried  Urendequa,  ct  will  you  not 
fight  ?  " 

44  My  quarrel  is  not  with  the  Chichimecs,"  replied 
Acxitl,  44  but  with  the  gods." 

44  Madman  !  "  cried  Huemac.  "  Quick,  with  me 
to  the  temple.  Let  us  prostrate  ourselves.  Even  yet 
there  is  time." 

14  Wherefore  has  this  thing  happened  ?  "  asked 
Acxitl  dully.  "  Because,  forsooth,  our  way  has  not 
pleased  the  gods.  Must  we  walk  according  to  their 
vanity  ?  Shall  we  toil  constantly  so  that  they  may 


have  seed  ;  shall  we  fight  constantly  so  that  they 
may  have  blood  ;  shall  we  pray  constantly  so  that 
their  vanity  may  increase  ?  Do  thou  those  things  if 
thou  wilt ;  but  as  for  me,  I  have  surprised  their 
secret,  and  I  am  no  more  their  slave.  The  door  of 
escape  from  their  prison-house  is  death,  and  he  who, 
knowing  this,  will  not  pass  its  portals  is  a  slave.  This 
door  I  shall  force  them  to  open  to  me.  Tollan  has 
been  a  city  of  music,  of  love,  of  rare  converse,  of  a 
secret  spirit,  of  many  rich  pleasantries  and  richer 
tears.  Here  have  dwelt  men  who  revelled  in  the 
making  of  things.  Of  all  this  the  dotards  of  heaven 
are  a- weary.  They  pine  for  praise,  which  is  their  food 
as  much  as  blood  is." 

A  terrific  shock  caused  the  palace  to  rock  to  its 
foundations.  A  great  pillar,  heavy  with  symbols, 
swayed  and  crashed  downwards,  the  sound  of  its  fall 
lost  in  the  tumult  of  subterranean  thunder.  A  shaft 
of  lightning  clove  the  darkness  and  showed  them  the 
face  of  Urendequa  lying  crushed  beneath  the  painted 
capital.  A  dry  sob  sounded  in  Acxitl's  throat,  but 
with  a  maniac  shriek  Huemac  fled  from  the  banquet- 
ing hall  into  the  street.  Never  again  was  the  last 
King  of  Tollan  beheld  by  mortal  man,  Toltec  or 

Another  lightning  flash,  and  Acxitl  groped  his  way 
to  a  trophy  of  arms  hard  by  the  painted  altar. 
Seizing  a  maquahuitl,  a  club  set  with  obsidian  edges, 
he  staggered  through  the  gloom  out  into  the  cause- 
way. The  streets  were  knee-deep  with  ashes,  and 
great  stones  hurtling  through  the  air  rang  on  roof 
and  wall,  crushing  the  fine  details  of  capital  and 
portico,  mutilating  wondrous  carving.  Still  he  groped 
onwards,  until  he  came  to  the  place  where  stood  the 
temple  of  Tlaloc.  Before  the  fane  was  a  great  statue 
of  the  god,  recumbent  on  elbows  and  with  huddled 
knees,  typifying  the  hill-land  whence  came  the  rains. 


As  Acxitl  gazed  upon  the  massive  block  of  greenstone 
the  tramp  of  armed  men  resounded  on  the  cobbles 
and  gave  him  pause.  Through  the  gloom  he  could 
see  a  band  of  Chichimecs,  a  befeathered  chief  at  their 

"  Stand,  brothers,"  he  cried,  "  and  hearken  to  me. 
To-day  I  was  King  in  Tollan  ;  we  were  too  happy 
here,  and  the  gods  grew  wroth  against  us  because  we 
neglected  their  worship.  Happy,  too,  was  I,  until  I 
found  that  man  cannot  live  save  on  sufferance  of  the 
gods,  and  no  snare  of  life  or  art  shall  now  hold  me  in 
such  servitude.  Thus  do  I  force  the  gods  to  open  the 
door  of  death." 

And  raising  high  his  maquahuitl,  he  smote  the  image 
of  Tlaloc  full  on  the  bended  neck.  The  weapon 
shattered,  and  its  flinty  blade  tinkled  in  fragments 
to  the  ground  ;  but  the  head,  mayhap  by  reason  of 
a  flaw  in  the  stone,  nodded,  fell,  and  rolled  into  the 
gutter.  Acxitl  laughed  aloud. 

A  jagged  circle  of  flame  burst  from  the  heavens, 
and  a  great  thunderbolt  hurtled  earthward.  Acxitl 
was  one  with  the  ashes  which  littered  the  causeway. 

"  Great  indeed  are  the  gods ! "  whispered  the 
Chichimec  chief  in  profoundest  awe.  "  Great  indeed 
are  they  of  whom  we  are  the  unworthy  instruments. 
This  city  was  full  of  sin  and  its  King  was  rnad.  His 
fate  be  upon  his  head." 

1  Yet,"  said  a  shield-bearer  beside  him,  "  it  is  not 
every  man  who  can  force  the  gods  to  slay  him,  so 
that  his  blood  may  witness  against  them.  Is  not  he 
who  can  coerce  the  gods  almost  as  a  god  himself  ?  " 

After  the  "  disappearance  "  of  the  Toltecs,  one  wave 
of  Nahua  after  another  descended  upon  the  Valley  of 
Mexico,  until  at  last  the  Aztecs,  or  "  Crane  People  " 
settled  on  the  borders  of  Lake  Tezcuco.  They  were 


a  warlike  and  somewhat  taciturn  folk,  with  a  deeply 
rooted  love  of  the  mysterious,  fond  of  dancing  and 
flowers,  but  dwelling  under  the  shadow  of  one  of  the 
most  gloomy  religions  ever  established  by  mankind, 
a  faith  which  chiefly  manifested  itself  in  human  sac- 
rifice and  penitential  exercises  of  a  severe  nature. 
Yet  they  were  and  are,  whatever  some  Europeans 
and  Americans  may  think,  a  people  gifted  with  an 
ability  to  regard  the  subtle  side  of  things  with  extra- 
ordinary nicety,  as  is  shown  by  the  rich  and  involved 
character  of  the  mythology  they  developed. 

They  entered  the  Mexican  Valley  at  the  beginning 
of  the  fourteenth  century,  and  in  the  course  of  the 
two  centuries  or  so  between  their  settlement  there 
and  the  conquest  of  Cortes  succeeded  by  warlike 
prowess  in  bringing  under  their  dominion  nearly  all 
the  tribes  then  dwelling  in  Mexico.  At  the  period 
of  the  Conquest  the  lacustrine  city  of  Mexico-Tenoch- 
titlan  contained  60,000  houses  and  about  300,000 
inhabitants,  and  the  Lake  of  Tezcuco,  on  which  it 
was  partly  built,  was  ringed  round  with  other  large 
cities.  The  site  was  intersected  by  four  great  road- 
ways or  avenues  built  at  right  angles  to  one  another, 
and  laid  four-square  with  the  cardinal  points.  Situ- 
ated as  it  was  in  the  midst  of  a  lake,  it  was  traversed 
by  numerous  canals,  which  were  used  as  thorough- 
fares for  traffic.  The  four  principal  ways  described 
above  were  extended  across  the  lake  as  dykes  or 
viaducts  until  they  met  its  shores.  The  dwellings  of 
the  poorer  classes  were  chiefly  composed  of  adobe, 
but  those  of  the  nobility  were  built  of  a  red  porous 
stone  quarried  close  by.  They  were  usually  of  one 
story  only,  but  occupied  a  goodly  area,  and  had  flat 
roofs,  many  of  which  were  covered  with  flowers. 
They  were  usually  coated  with  a  hard  white  cement, 
which  gave  them  an  added  resemblance  to  the 
Oriental  type  of  building. 



Towering  high  among  these,  and  a  little  apart  from 
the  vast  squares  and  market-places,  were  the  teocallis, 
or  temples.  These  were  not  covered-in  buildings,  but 
"  high  places,"  great  pyramids  of  stone,  built  plat- 
form on  platform,  and  a  coiling  staircase  led  to  the 
summit,  on  which  was  usually  erected  a  small  shrine 
containing  the  tutelary  deity  to  whom  the  teocalli 
had  been  raised.  The  great  temple  of  Uitzilopochtli, 
the  war-god,  built  by  King  Ahuizotl,  was,  besides 
being  typical  of  all,  by  far  the  greatest  of  these  votive 
piles.  The  enclosing  walls  of  the  building  were  4800 
feet  in  circumference,  and  strikingly  decorated  by 
carvings  representing  festoons  of  intertwined  reptiles, 
from  which  circumstance  they  were  called  coetpantli 
(walls  of  serpents).  A  kind  of  gatehouse  on  each  side 
gave  access  to  the  enclosure.  The  teocalli,  or  great 
temple,  inside  the  court  was  in  the  shape  of  a  paral- 
lelogram, measuring  375  feet  by  300  feet,  and  was 
built  in  six  platforms,  growing  smaller  in  area  as  they 
ascended.  The  mass  of  this  structure  was  composed 
of  a  mixture  of  rubble,  clay,  and  earth,  covered  with 
carefully  worked  stone  slabs,  cemented  together  with 
infinite  care,  and  coated  with  a  hard  gypsum.  A 
flight  of  340  steps  circled  round  the  terraces  and  led 
to  the  upper  platform,  on  which  were  raised  two  three- 
storied  towers  56  feet  in  height,  in  which  stood  the 
great  statues  of  the  tutelary  deities  and  the  jasper 
stones  of  sacrifice.  These  sanctuaries,  say  the  old 
Conquistadores  who  entered  them,  had  the  appear- 
ance and  odour  of  shambles,  and  human  blood  was 
bespattered  everywhere.  In  this  weird  chapel  of 
horrors  burned  a  fire,  the  extinction  of  which,  it  was 
supposed,  would  have  precipitated  the  end  of  the 
Nahua  power.  It  was  tended  with  a  care  as  scrupulous 
as  that  with  which  the  Roman  Vestals  guarded  their 
sacred  flame.  No  less  than  six  hundred  of  these  sacred 
braziers  were  kept  alight  in  the  city  of  Mexico  alone. 


The  civilization  of  the  people  who  inhabited  Mexico 
was  of  a  much  higher  order  than  that  of  many  com- 
munities which  have  enjoyed  greater  advantages. 
Although  its  people  were  ignorant  of  the  uses  of  iron 
and  steel,  for  which  they  substituted  the  sharp  sherds 
of  the  obsidian  stone,  they  possessed  many  of  the 
refinements  of  the  most  cultivated  nations  of  Europe 
— a  noble  if  bizarre  architecture,  a  high  sense  of  the 
value  of  colour,  an  art  which  owed  little  to  imitation 
and  much  to  nature  and  to  their  own  imaginative 
capacity,  a  useful  if  primitive  system  of  writing,  a 
well-defined  legal  code  and  no  mean  skill  in  the 
military  art.  If  Aztec  society  was  established  on 
rather  hard-and-fast  lines,  it  was  still  so  perfectly 
controlled  that  every  individual  had  his  niche,  which 
was,  indeed,  marked  out  for  him  at  birth.  A  caste 
system  obtained  in  the  case  of  craftsmen,  but  the 
position  of  women  appears  to  have  been  much  more 
free  than  in  any  other  human  society  outside  Europe. 

The  Aztecs,  and  indeed  the  entire  Nahua  race, 
employed  a  system  of  writing  of  the  type  scientifically 
described  as  "  pictographic,"  in  which  events,  persons, 
and  ideas  were  recorded  by  means  of  drawings  and 
coloured  sketches.  These  were  executed  on  paper 
made  from  the  agave  plant,  or  were  painted  on  the 
skins  of  animals.  By  these  means  not  only  history 
and  the  principles  of  the  Nahua  mythology  were 
communicated  from  generation  to  generation,  but 
the  transactions  of  daily  life,  the  accountings  of  mer- 
chants, and  the  purchase  and  ownership  of  land  were 
placed  on  record.  That  a  phonetic  system  was  rapidly 
being  approached  was  manifest  from  the  method  by 
which  the  Nahua  scribes  depicted  the  names  of  indi- 
viduals or  cities.  These  were  represented  by  means 
of  several  objects,  the  names  of  which  resembled  that 
of  the  person  for  which  they  stood.  The  name  of 
King  Ixcoatl,  for  example,  is  represented  by  the 


drawing  of  a  serpent  (coatl)  pierced  by  flint  knives 
(Iztli),  and  that  of  Motequauhzoma  (Montezuma)  by 
a  mouse-trap  (montli),  an  eagle  (quauhtli),  a  lancet  (zo), 
and  a  hand  (maitl).  The  phonetic  values  employed 
by  the  scribes  varied  exceedingly,  so  that  at  times 
an  entire  syllable  would  be  expressed  by  the  painting 
of  an  object  the  name  of  which  commenced  with  it, 
at  other  times  only  a  letter  would  be  represented  by 
the  same  drawing.  But  the  general  intention  of  the 
scribes  was  undoubtedly  more  ideographic  than 
phonetic ;  that  is,  they  desired  to  convey  their 
thoughts  more  by  sketch  than  by  sound. 

These  pinturas,  as  the  Spanish  conquerors  called 
them,  offer  no  very  great  difficulty  in  their  elucidation 
to  modern  experts,  at  least  so  far  as  the  general  trend 
of  their  contents  is  concerned.  In  this  they  are  unlike 
the  manuscripts  of  the  Maya  of  Central  America,  with 
which  we  shall  make  acquaintance  farther  on.  Their 
interpretation  was  largely  traditional,  and  was  learned 
by  rote,  being  passed  on  by  one  generation  of  amama- 
tini  (readers)  to  another,  and  they  were  by  no  means 
capable  of  being  read  by  all  and  sundry. 

The  life  of  the  people  varied  considerably  with  their 
caste  and  avocations.  The  lower  classes  in  the 
country  districts  were  almost  wholly  agricultural, 
and  acted  as  labourers  in  the  maize  fields,  or  hunters, 
fowlers,  and  fishers,  while  the  working  folk  in  the 
towns  wrought  at  such  trades  as  building,  the  making 
of  feather  robes,  jewellery,  and  so  forth.  Vendors  of 
flowers,  fruit,  vegetables,  and  fish  crowded  the  large 
markets  and  public  squares,  and  each  of  these  trades 
and  castes  had  its  particular  patron  god.  The  upper 
class  was  aristocratic  and  exclusive.  The  monarch 
was  regarded  as  a  deity,  and  his  office  was  an  elective 
one,  but  he  might  be  appointed  from  the  royal  family 
only,  and  at  the  instance  of  the  great  nobles  alone. 
The  gulf  betwixt  the  autocratic  class  and  the  people 


was  a  wide  one,  though  prowess  in  war  was  capable 
of  bridging  it  and  a  doughty  soldier  might  well  be 
advanced  to  the  position  of  a  knight. 

The  architecture  of  ancient  Mexico,  if  bizarre,  was 
not  undistinguished.  In  the  cities  the  better  houses 
were  built  of  stone,  four-square  and  stable,  and 
ornamented  with  designs  taken  from  Aztec  sym- 
bolism. They  had  flat  roofs  or  azoteas,  and  heavily- 
eaved  doorways.  The  city  of  Mexico  has  already 
been  described,  but  it  behoves  to  pay  some  attention 
to  the  more  celebrated  architectural  monuments  in 
other  parts  of  the  country. 

Although  Mexico  is  not  so  rich  in  ruins  of  her 
great  past  as  are  Yucatan  or  Guatemala,  where  the 
growth  of  forests  has  protected  the  architectural 
antiquities  of  these  countries,  it  is  not  without  several 
striking  examples  of  native  building.  In  the  northern 
part  of  the  states  of  Vera  Cruz  are  to  be  found  the 
great  pyramids  of  Teotihuacan  and  the  beautiful 
teocalli  of  Xochicalco.  The  former  place  was  the 
Mecca  of  the  Nahua  races,  and  its  pyramids  of  the 
Sun  and  Moon  are  surrounded  by  extensive  ceme- 
teries where  the  devout  had  been  interred  in  the 
hope  that  their  souls  would  thus  find  entrance  to  the 
paradise  of  the  sun.  The  teocalli  of  the  moon  has  a 
base  covering  426  feet  and  a  height  of  137  feet.  That 
of  the  sun  is  of  greater  dimensions,  with  a  base  of 
735  feet  and  a  height  of  203  feet.  These  pyramids 
were  divided  into  four  stories,  three  of  which  remain 
in  each  case.  On  the  summit  of  that  of  the  sun  stood 
a  temple  containing  a  great  image  of  that  luminary 
carved  from  a  rough  block  of  stone.  In  the  breast 
was  inlaid  a  star  of  the  purest  gold,  seized  afterwards 
as  loot  by  the  insatiable  followers  of  Cortes.  From 
the  teocalli  of  the  moon  a  path  runs  to  where  a  little 
rivulet  flanks  the  "  Citadel."  This  path  is  known  as 
"  The  Path  of  the  Dead,"  from  the  circumstance  that 



it  is  surrounded  by  some  nine  square  miles  of  tombs 
and  tumuli,  and,  indeed,  forms  a  road  through  the 
great  cemetery. 

Xochicalco,  "  The  Hill  of  Flowers,"  near  Tezcuco, 
is  a  teocalli  or  pyramid  of  amazing  beauty,  built  of 
richly  sculptured  blocks  of  porphyry  12  feet  in  length, 
depicting  the  god  Quetzalcoatl  as  the  great  serpent- 
bird.  The  site  of  Tollan,  the  Toltec  city,  is  equally 
impressive  as  regards  its  remains  discovered  by 
excavation.  Charnay  unearthed  there  gigantic  frag- 
ments of  caryatids,  each  some  seven  feet  high.  He 
also  found  columns  of  two  pieces,  which  were  fitted 
together  by  means  of  mortise  and  tenon,  bas-reliefs 
of  archaic  figures  of  undoubted  Nahua  type,  and  many 
fragments  of  great  antiquity.  On  the  hill  of  Palpan, 
above  Tollan,  he  found  the  ground-plans  of  several 
houses  with  numerous  apartments,  frescoed,  columned, 
and  having  benches  and  cisterns  recalling  the  implu- 
vium  of  a  Roman  villa.  Water-pipes  were  also 
actually  unearthed,  and  a  wealth  of  pottery,  many 
pieces  of  which  resembled  old  Japanese  china.  The 
ground-plan  or  foundations  of  the  houses  uncovered 
at  Palpan  showed  that  they  had  been  designed  by 
practical  architects,  and  had  not  been  built  in  merely 
haphazard  fashion.  The  cement  which  covered  the 
walls  and  floors  was  of  excellent  quality,  and  recalled 
that  found  in  ancient  Italian  excavations.  The  roofs 
had  been  of  wood,  supported  by  pillars. 

Only  the  briefest  sketch  of  Aztec  history  can  be 
offered  here.  At  the  period  when  the  Nahua  tribes 
proper  first  settled  on  the  borders  of  Lake  Tezcuco 
their  communities  grouped  themselves  around  two  of 
the  larger  sites,  Azcapozalco  and  Tezcuco,  which  may 
be  described  as  the  Athens  of  Mexico,  the  literary 
and  artistic  capital.  A  fierce  rivalry  sprang  up 
between  these  cities,  and  ended  in  the  discomfiture 
of  the  former.  From  this  time  Mexican  history  may 


be  said  to  commence,  the  Tezcucan  power  over- 
running the  entire  area  from  the  Mexican  Gulf  to  the 
Pacific.  On  the  rise  of  the  Aztecs  in  the  fourteenth 
century  they  allied  themselves  with  the  tribe  of 
the  Tecpanecs  of  Tlacopan,  and  little  by  little  sub- 
dued most  of  the  lacustrine  communities,  penetrating 
also  into  the  Otomi  country  to  the  north.  Finally, 
they  subdued  Tezcuco  itself.  The  Tezcucans  had 
levied  an  embargo  against  their  goods  and  refused 
them  intercourse.  War  followed,  probably  about 
1428,  and  the  Aztecs  defeated  the  Tezcucan  con- 
federacy with  great  slaughter.  An  alliance  ensued 
between  Aztec  Mexico,  Tezcuco  and  Tlacopan,  the 
allies  overran  many  states  far  beyond  the  confines  of 
the  Valley,  and  by  the  period  of  the  Spanish  Conquest 
had  extended  their  boundaries  almost  to  the  limits 
of  the  present  Mexican  Republic.  They  levied  a 
strictly  collected  tribute  from  their  conquered  sub- 
jects, manufacturing  the  raw  material  exacted  from 
them,  which  they  sold  again  in  its  finished  state  to 
the  tribes  under  their  sway,  until  at  last  Mexico 
became  the  chief  market  of  the  empire. 

When  Montezuma  I.  came  to  the  throne  in  1440  he 
almost  at  once  began  to  extend  the  Aztec  dominions. 
He  had  been  both  high  priest  of  the  kingdom  and  its 
commander-in-chief,  but  now  he  displayed  ability  as 
a  town-planner,  building  beautiful  palaces  and 
temples  and  the  dykes  or  passage-ways  which  con- 
nected the  city  with  the  mainland,  and  constructing 
canals.  But  horrible  human  sacrifices  disfigured  the 
civilization  of  this  people,  growing  with  the  power  of 
the  Aztec  state,  regarded  as  they  were  as  a  sign  of 
heavenly  favour  as  manifested  in  conquest  and 

The  peoples  surrounding  the  Aztecs  came  to  loathe 
the  hateful  power  which  drew  countless  thousands  of 
victims  to  the  smoking  altar  of  the  war-god  Uitzilo- 


pochtli,  and  when  Axayacatl  became  king  in  1468 
several  revolts  broke  out.  But  these  were  broken, 
and  when  Montezuma  II.  began  to  reign,  Mexico 
and  all  its  dependencies  were  ripe  for  rebellion  once 

No  need  to  repeat  here  the  story  of  the  Spanish 
Conquest.  But  that  Castilian  rule  shattered  a  hege- 
mony of  monstrous  evil,  who  can  question  ?  The 
Aztec  state  seemed  never  to  have  even  a  doubt  as  to 
the  inherent  virtue  resident  in  its  sanguinary  regime. 
But  Beneficence,  which  will  not  permit  evil  to  reign 
for  ever,  set  over  the  Aztec  people  the  rod  of  an  iron 
tyranny  which  seems  in  some  measure  the  just  due  of 
a  race  which  had  so  wantonly  flouted  those  common 
dictates  of  mercy  and  humanity  which  peoples  far 
less  cultured  than  the  Aztec  have  displayed.  Whether 
the  Mexican  peoples  are  inherently  cruel,  or  whether 
the  awful  devil-worship  they  once  indulged  in  has 
rendered  them  so,  who  shall  presume  to  say  ?  But 
an  examination  of  their  subsequent  history  lends 
colour  to  the  assumption  that  if  they  are  not  natively 
the  most  barbarous  among  the  world's  nations  they 
have  in  this  respect,  along  with  outstanding  virtues, 
a  "  bad  eminence  "  which  even  their  well-wishers 
cannot  but  deplore.1 

1  For  a  full  account  of  the  history  of  the  Mexican  tribes,  see  the 
writer's  Civilization  of  Ancient  Mexico  (Cambridge  University 
Manuals),  and  T.  Athol  Joyce,  Mexican  Archaeology. 



TO  understand  Mexican  Magic  and  the  attitude 
of  the  ancient  Mexicans  towards  the  super- 
natural, it  is  necessary  to  explain  the  funda- 
mental tendencies  of  religion  as  understood  on  the 
plateau  of  Mexico.  At  first  sight  these  appear  as 
inextricable,  but  in  reality  they  are  capable  of  very 
simple  treatment  indeed.  The  basis  of  Mexican 
religion,  it  will  be  found,  is  really  a  magical  one,  the 
gods  are  magical  figures,  their  rites  arose  out  of 
magical  practice.  As  observed  at  the  period  of  the 
Spanish  Conquest,  Mexican  religion  appears  complex 
enough,  but  research  has  succeeded  in  referring  almost 
every  one  of  its  beliefs  to  very  simple  and  even  primi- 
tive ideas — ideas,  however,  which  contain  the  root 
elements  of  magical  knowledge  and  practice. 

The  tales  which  give  us  the  clue  to  early  religious 
influences  in  Mexico  are  mostly  associated  with  the 
pre-Aztec  or  Toltec  civilization.  Many  of  them  refer 
to  a  god  or  culture-hero  called  Quetzalcoatl,  who  is 
described  as  a  magician  and  the  inventor  of  the 
astrological  tonalamatl,  or  Book  of  Fate.  The  faith 
he  introduced  differed  greatly  from  that  in  vogue  at 
the  period  of  the  Conquest.  It  inculcated  purification 
and  penance  by  the  drawing  of  blood  from  the  tongue 
and  thighs,  and  was  unfriendly  to  the  cannibal  rites 
later  practised.  But  this  cult  was  to  a  great  extent 



superseded  by  that  of  other  and  earlier  deities. 
Beneath  the  worship  of  these  we  can  descry  one  out- 
standing purpose — the  desire  to  ensure  such  a  supply 
of  rain  by  magical  means  as  would  result  in  a  crop  of 
maize  sufficient  to  keep  the  people  in  life. 

Out  of  this  was  developed  a  rain-cult  of  such 
elaborate  character  that  a  most  complex  theology, 
pantheon,  and  system  of  ethical  conduct  came  in  turn 
to  be  associated  with  it.  The  original  native  deities 
of  Mexico  presided  over  vegetable  and  cereal  growth, 
and  those  who  came  to  be  identified  with  the  creative 
idea  or  with  the  heavenly  bodies  were  either  gods  of 
growth  to  whom  these  attributes  had  become  for- 
tuitously attached,  or  were  the  products  of  later 
priestly  speculation. 

In  a  land  so  arid  as  Mexico  it  is  scarcely  surprising 
that  the  magical  production  of  rain  should  have 
become  the  chief  religious  endeavour  of  the  people. 
Famine  and  its  accompanying  evils  followed  upon  a 
dry  agricultural  season  and  subjected  the  race  to  all 
the  miseries  of  hunger  and  thirst.  What  wonder, 
then,  that  they  deified  the  powers  of  rain,  exalted 
them  above  all  others,  and  by  every  supernatural 
means  strove  to  avert  the  disaster  of  a  dry  season  ? 
The  earth  they  regarded  as  the  cipactli  or  dragon- 
beast  which  brought  forth  the  grain  and  which  might 
fail  in  its  powers  unless  nurtured  by  draughts  of 
human  blood.  The  more  she  was  nourished  by  this 
dreadful  wine  the  more  she  was  capable  of  bringing 
forth.  Blood,  human  or  animal,  was  conceived  of  as 
rain  in  another  form,  of  being  capable  of  transforma- 
tion into  rain,  the  fructifying  essence  which  descended 
from  above. 

The  earth  became  in  the  popular  idea  the  goddess 
Coatlicue,  to  whom  thousands  of  hearts  must  annually 
be  offered  up  in  the  hope  of  a  good  harvest.  There 
were  many  other  deities  of  growth,  probably  of  foreign 


importation,  that  is  originally  belonging  to  other 
tribes  than  the  Aztecs,  but  the  dragon-statue  of  this 
goddess,  still  preserved  in  the  National  Museum  at 
Mexico  City,  displays  her  as  the  earth-mother  par 
excellence,  clad  in  her  serpent-robe  and  hung  with  the 
skin  of  a  sacrificed  woman,  her  merciless  countenance 
covered  by  a  serpent  or  dragon's  mask,  surmounting 
the  grotesque  riot  of  symbolic  attributes  by  which 
she  is  covered.  Deeply  rooted  in  the  Mexican  mind 
was  the  idea  that  unless  the  gods  were  abundantly 
refreshed  with  human  blood  they  would  perish  of 
hunger  and  old  age  and  would  be  unable  to  undertake 
their  labours  in  connection  with  the  growth  of  the 
crops.  Whence  came  this  idea  ?  Undoubtedly  from 
that  process  of  barbaric  reasoning  through  which 
Mexican  man  had  convinced  himself  that  the  amount 
of  rainfall  would  be  in  ratio  to  the  amount  of  blood 
shed  sacrificially.  Eduard  Seler,  the  German  savant, 
has  indicated  his  belief  in  such  a  process  of  reasoning 
by  stating  that  "  the  one  was  intended  to  draw  down 
the  other,  the  blood  which  was  offered  was  intended 
to  bring  down  the  rain  upon  the  fields."  This,  then, 
is  the  precise  nature  of  the  compact  between  Mexican 
man  and  his  gods  :  Do  ut  des,  "  Give  us  rain,  and  we 
shall  give  you  blood."  Once  this  is  understood  the 
basic  nature  of  Mexican  religion  becomes  clear,  and 
all  the  later  additions  of  theology  and  priestly  inven- 
tion can  be  viewed  as  mere  excrescences  and  orna- 
ments upon  the  simple  architecture  of  the  temple  of 
the  rain-cult. 

Many  were  the  methods  by  which  blood  and  hearts 
were  offered  up  to  the  gods,  and  the  several  festivals 
at  which  this  rite  was  in  vogue  differed  slightly  from 
each  other  in  ritual  and  procedure.  But  that  which 
may  be  regarded  as  supplying  perhaps  the  most 
general  form  of  the  horrid  rite  was  that  of  the  Xala- 
quia,  a  festival  held  at  the  season  when  the  magic 



plant  had  attained  its  full  growth.  The  women  of 
the  city  wore  their  hair  unbound,  and  shook  and  tossed 
it  so  that  by  sympathetic  magic  the  maize  might  grow 
correspondingly  long.  Hymns  were  sung  to  the  earth- 
goddess  Chicomecohuatl,  a  variant  of  Coatlicue,  and 
hilarious  dances  were  nightly  performed  in  the  teopan 
(temple),  the  central  figure  in  which  was  the  Xalaquia, 
a  female  captive  or  slave,  with  face  painted  red  and 
yellow  to  represent  the  colours  of  the  maize  plant. 
She  had  previously  undergone  a  long  course  of  train- 
ing in  the  dancing-school,  and  now,  all  unaware  of 
the  horrible  fate  awaiting  her,  she  danced  and 
pirouetted  gaily  among  the  rest.  Throughout  the 
duration  of  the  festival  she  danced,  and  on  its  expir- 
ing night  she  was  accompanied  in  a  kind  of  ballet  by 
the  women  of  the  community,  who  circled  round  her, 
chanting  the  deeds  of  Chicomecohuatl.  When  day- 
break appeared  the  company  was  joined  by  the 
chiefs  and  headmen,  who,  along  with  the  exhausted 
and  half-fainting  victim,  danced  the  solemn  death- 
dance.  The  entire  community  then  approached  the 
teocalli  (pyramid  of  sacrifice),  and,  its  summit  reached, 
the  victim  was  stripped  to  a  nude  condition,  the 
priest  plunged  a  knife  of  flint  into  her  bosom,  and, 
tearing  out  the  still  palpitating  heart,  offered  it  up  to 
Chicomecohuatl.  In  this  manner  the  venerable 
goddess,  weary  with  the  labours  of  inducing  growth 
in  the  maize-plant,  was  supposed  to  be  revivified  and 
refreshed.  Hence  the  victim's  name  Xalaquia,  which 
signifies  "  She  who  is  clothed  with  the  Sand." 

Apart  altogether  from  the  more  primitive  deities 
of  grain,  were  gods  of  somewhat  higher  status,  several 
of  whom  were  thought  of  as  having  introduced  the 
practice  of  magic  into  Mexico.  The  most  remarkable 
of  these  was  Quetzalcoatl,  the  grand  enchanter. 

Regarding  this  Quetzalcoatl,  we  possess  an  extra- 
ordinary amount  of  material  which  alone  makes  it 


certain  that  he  was  a  figure  of  primary  importance. 
Indeed,  some  modern  authorities  have  proved  to  their 
own  satisfaction  that  he  was  a  veritable  human  per- 
sonage, and  with  this  view  I  am  in  general  agreement. 
Perhaps  the  best  account  of  his  history  is  that  of 
Sahagun,  a  Spanish  friar  of  the  sixteenth  century, 
who  had  exceptional  opportunities  of  collecting  the 
traditions  of  the  Aztecs. 

Quetzalcoatl,  he  tells  us,  was  a  great  civilizing  agent, 
who  entered  Mexico  at  the  head  of  a  band  of  strangers, 
the  Toltecs.  He  imported  the  arts  into  the  country 
and  especially  fostered  agriculture.  In  his  time  maize 
was  so  large  in  the  head  that  a  man  might  not  carry 
more  than  one  stalk  at  a  time,  and  cotton  grew  in  all 
colours  without  having  to  be  dyed.  He  built  spacious 
and  elegant  houses,  and  inculcated  a  type  of  religion 
which  fostered  peace,  and  the  rites  of  which  included 
the  drawing  of  blood  by  way  of  penance.  But  sor- 
cerers came  against  Quetzalcoatl  and  his  people,  the 
Toltecs,  and  these,  we  are  told,  were  the  gods  Tez- 
catlipoca,  Uitzilopochtli,  and  Tlacuepan.  Tezcatli- 
poca  visited  the  house  of  Quetzalcoatl  in  the  guise  of 
an  old  man,  but  was  told  that  he  was  sick,  and  was 
at  first  refused  entrance.  Later,  however,  he  was 
admitted,  Quetzalcoatl  observing  that  he  had  waited 
for  him  for  many  days.  Tezcatlipoca  then  produced 
a  draught  of  medicine  which,  he  assured  the  sick  king, 
would  intoxicate  him,  ease  his  heart,  and  carry  his 
thoughts  away  from  the  trials  and  fatigues  of  death 
and  departure.  This  latter  statement  inspired  Quet- 
zalcoatl to  ask  whence  he  must  go,  for  that  he  had  a 
premonition  of  departure  seems  clear.  "  To  Tollant- 
lapallan,"  replied  Tezcatlipoca,  "  where  another  old 
man  awaits  thee.  He  and  you  shall  speak  together, 
and  on  thy  return  thou  shalt  be  as  a  youth,  yea  as  a 
boy."  With  little  goodwill  Quetzalcoatl  quaffed  the 
medicine,  and  having  once  tasted  of  it,  he  drank  more 


deeply,  so  that  at  last  he  became  intoxicated  and 
maudlin.  That  which  he  had  drunk  was  the  wine 
made  from  the  maguey-plant,  called  teoncetl  ("  drink 
of  the  gods  ").  And  so  great  a  longing  to  depart  came 
upon  him  that  at  length  he  arose  and  went  from 
Tollan.  Ere  departing,  Quetzalcoatl  burned  his 
houses  of  shells  and  silver  and  buried  many  precious 
things  in  the  mountains  and  ravines. 

He  reached  the  coast  after  many  adventures,  inci- 
dentally losing  all  his  servants,  who  perished  through 
cold  whilst  traversing  the  snowy  sides  of  a  volcano. 
At  length  he  came  to  the  sea,  where  he  commanded 
that  a  raft  of  serpents  should  appear,  and  in  this  he 
seated  himself  as  in  a  canoe,  and  set  out  for  Tlapallan, 
the  mysterious  country  whence  he  had  come. 

Another  Spanish  friar,  Torquemada,  says  of  Quet- 
zalcoatl and  his  comrades  that  they  came  from  the 
north  by  way  of  Panuco,  dressed  in  long  robes  of 
black  linen,  cut  low  at  the  neck,  with  short  sleeves. 
They  came  to  Tollan,  but  finding  the  country  there 
too  thickly  peopled,  passed  on  to  Cholula,  where  they 
were  well  received.  Their  chief  was  Quetzalcoatl,  a 
man  with  ruddy  complexion  and  long  beard.  These 
people  multiplied  and  sent  colonists  to  the  Mixtec 
and  Zapotec  countries,  raising  the  great  buildings  at 
Mitla.  They  were  cunning  handicraftsmen,  not  so 
good  at  masonry  as  at  jewellers'  work,  sculpture,  and 
agriculture.  Tezcatlipoca  and  Huemac  conceived  an 
enmity  to  Quetzalcoatl,  and  as  he  did  not  wish  to  go 
to  war  with  them  he  and  his  folk  removed  to  Ono- 
hualco  (Yucatan,  Tabasco,  and  Campeche). 

Mendieta,  a  Castilian  author,  alludes  to  the  manner 
in  which  Quetzalcoatl  originated  the  astrological 
calendar.  He  says  that  the  gods  thought  it  well  that 
the  people  should  have  some  means  of  writing  by 
which  they  might  direct  themselves,  and  two  of  their 
number,  Oxomoco  and  Cipactonal,  who  dwelt  in  a 


cave  in  Cuernavaca,  especially  considered  the  matter. 
Cipactonal  thought  that  her  descendant  Quetzalcoatl 
should  be  consulted,  and  she  called  him  into  counsel. 
He,  too,  thought  the  idea  of  a  calendar  good,  and  the 
two  addressed  themselves  to  the  task  of  making  the 
tonalamatl,  or  Book  of  Fate.  To  Cipactonal  was  given 
the  privilege  of  choosing  and  writing  the  first  sign  or 
day-symbol  of  the  calendar.  She  painted  the  cipactli 
or  dragon  animal,  and  called  the  sign  ce  cipactli  ("  one 
cipactli  ").  Oxomoco  then  wrote  ome  acatl  ("  two 
cane  "),  and  Quetzalcoatl  "  three  house,"  and  so  on, 
until  the  thirteen  signs  were  completed. 

We  will  also  find  Quetzalcoatl  in  Maya  lore  when 
we  come  to  consider  it,  under  the  names  of  Kukulcan, 
Gucumatz,  and  Votan.  Quetzalcoatl  later  became 
sanctified  in  godlike  guise,  and  was  worshipped  as  the 
god  of  the  trade  wind  which  brings  the  fructifying 
rains  to  Mexico.  It  was  in  this  character  that  he  was 
supposed  to  depart  to  the  land  of  refreshment  to  seek 
the  new  rain.  But  that  originally  he  was  a  real  man 
we  cannot  doubt,  as  indeed  Dr.  H.  J.  Spinden  has 
proved,  and  in  my  belief  he  was  a  primitive  wizard 
or  medicine-man  who  introduced  the  magical  art  and 
astrology  into  Mexico  and  Central  America.  Regarded 
as  the  inventor  of  the  tonalamatl,  or  Book  of  Fate,  he 
gained  a  reputation  as  the  possessor  of  profound 
wisdom,  and  came  to  be  looked  upon  as  the  magician 
or  sage  par  excellence.  The  name  implies  "  feathered 
serpent,"  or,  according  to  some  other  authorities, 
"  Precious  Twin." 

It  is  chiefly  in  the  myths  of  Central  America  rather 
than  in  those  of  Mexico  that  the  magical  character 
of  Quetzalcoatl  is  to  be  remarked.  These  speak  of 
him  most  definitely  as  a  magician,  and  the  cult  of  the 
Nagualists,  a  magical  society,  regarded  him  as  its 
peculiar  patron. 

The  next  magician-god  we  encounter  is  Tezcatli- 


poca,  or  "  Fiery  Mirror,"  so-called  because  he  took- 
his  name  from  the  obsidian  scrying-stone  of  the 
Mexican  seers.  This  stone  had  an  especial  sanctity 
for  the  Mexicans,  as  it  provided  the  sacrificial  knives 
employed  by  the  priests,  and  we  possess  good  evidence 
that  obsidian  in  its  fetish  form  was  worshipped  even 
so  late  as  the  eighteenth  century  by  the  Nahuatl- 
speaking  Chotas,  who  comprised  it  in  a  trinity  with 
the  Dawn  and  the  Serpent.  But  another  important 
link  connects  Tezcatlipoca  with  obsidian.  Bernal 
Diaz  states  that  they  called  this  stone  or  vitreous 
glass  "  Tezcat."  From  it  mirrors  were  manufactured 
as  divinatory  media  to  be  used  by  the  wizards. 
Sahagun  says  that  it  was  known  as  aitztli  (water 
obsidian),  probably  because  of  the  high  polish  of 
which  it  was  capable.  Another  such  stone  he  men- 
tions was  called  tepochtli,  which  I  would  translate 
"  wizard  stone,"  and  from  which  I  think,  by  a  process 
of  etymological  confusion,  Tezcatlipoca  received  one 
of  his  minor  names,  Telpochtli,  "  the  youth."  The 
name  of  the  god  means  "  Smoking  Mirror,"  and 
Acosta  says  that  the  Mexicans  called  Tezcatlipoca's 
mirror  irlacheaya  (an  obvious  error  for  tlachialoni), 
"  his  glass  to  look  in,"  otherwise  the  mirror  or  scrying- 
stone  in  which  he  was  able  to  witness  the  doings  of 
mankind.  It  is  possible  that  the  "  smoke  "  which 
was  said  to  rise  from  this  mirror  symbolized  the 
haziness  which  clouds  the  surface  of  a  divinatory 
glass  prior  to  the  phenomenon  of  vision  therein. 

Thus  from  the  shape  beheld  in  the  seer's  mirror 
Tezcatlipoca  came  to  be  regarded  as  the  seer.  That 
into  which  the  wizard  gazed  became  so  closely  iden- 
tified with  sorcery  as  to  be  thought  of  as  wizard-like 
itself ;  for  Tezcatlipoca  is,  of  all  Mexican  deities,  the 
one  most  nearly  connected  with  the  wizard's  art,  the 
art  of  Black  Magic.  He  is  distinctively  the  nocturnal 
god  who  haunts  the  crossways  and  appears  in  a  myriad 


phantom  guises  to  the  night-bound  wayfarer. 
"  These,"  says  Sahagun,  "  were  masks  that  Tezcatli- 
poca  assumed  to  frighten  the  people." 

He  wears  the  symbol  of  night  upon  his  forehead  ; 
he  is  the  moon,  ruler  of  the  night,  the  wizard  who 
veils  himself  behind  the  clouds  ;  he  bears  as  a  magical 
instrument  the  severed  arm  of  a  woman  who  has  died 
in  childbed,  as  did  the  naualli  or  sorcerers  of  old 
Mexico.  From  him  all  ominous  and  uncanny  sounds 
proceed  :  the  howl  of  the  jaguar  (in  which  we  per- 
ceive Tezcatlipoca  as  the  wizard  metamorphosed  into 
the  wer-animal),  and  the  foreboding  cry  of  the  uactli 
bird,  the  voc,  the  prophesying  bird  of  Hurakan  in  the 
"  Popol  Vuh,"  the  magical  book  of  Central  America. 

Tezcatlipoca,  at  the  period  of  the  Conquest,  had 
developed  attributes  of  a  more  lofty  kind  than  any 
of  those  deities  already  described.  Like  Quetzalcoatl, 
and  because  he  was  a  god  of  the  wind  or  atmosphere, 
he  came  to  be  regarded  as  the  personification  of  the 
breath  of  life.  In  the  mind  of  savage  man  the  wind 
is  usually  the  giver  of  breath,  the  great  storehouse  of 
respiration,  the  source  of  immediate  life.  In  many 
mythologies  the  name  of  the  principal  deity  is  synony- 
mous with  that  for  wind,  and  in  many  languages  the 
words  "  soul  "  and  "  breath  "  have  a  common  origin. 

But  it  is  as  a  sorcerer  that  we  must  regard  Tez- 
catlipoca in  this  place,  and  that  side  of  his  character 
is  well  depicted  in  the  myths  concerning  the  manner 
in  which  he  plagued  the  Toltecs.  Sahagun  recounts 
a  myth  which  tells  how,  disguised  as  a  peddler  named 
Toveyo,  he  behaved  much  as  did  the  Pied  Piper. 

"  This  Toveyo  adorned  all  his  body  with  the  rich 
feathers  called  tocivitl,  and  commanded  the  Toltecs  to 
gather  together  for  a  festival,  and  sent  a  crier  up  to 
the  top  of  the  mountain  Tzatzitepec,  to  call  in  the 
strangers  and  the  people  afar  off  to  dance  and  to 
feast.  A  numberless  multitude  gathered  to  Tollan. 


When  they  were  all  gathered,  Toveyo  led  them  out, 
young  men  and  girls,  to  a  place  called  Texcalapa, 
where  he  himself  began  and  led  the  dancing,  playing 
on  a  drum.  He  sang,  too,  singing  each  verse  to  the 
dancers,  who  sang  it  after  him,  though  they  knew 
not  the  song  beforehand.  Then  was  to  be  seen  a 
marvellous  and  terrible  thing.  A  panic  seized  the 
Toltecs.  There  was  a  gorge  or  ravine  there,  with  a 
river  rushing  through  it  called  the  Texcaltlauhco.  A 
stone  bridge  led  over  the  river.  Toveyo  broke  down 
this  bridge  as  the  people  fled.  He  saw  them  tread 
and  crush  each  other  down,  under-foot  and  over  into 
the  abyss.  They  that  fell  were  turned  into  rocks  and 
stones  ;  as  for  those  that  escaped,  they  did  not  see 
nor  think  that  it  was  Toveyo  and  his  sorceries  that 
had  wrought  this  great  destruction ;  they  were 
blinded  by  the  witchcraft  of  the  god,  and  out  of  their 
senses,  like  drunken  men." 

Another  of  his  sorceries  is  described  as  follows  : 
"  And  after  this  Tezcatlipoca  wrought  another  witch- 
craft against  the  Toltecs.  He  called  himself  Tlacave- 
pan,  or  Acexcoch,  and  came  and  sat  down  in  the 
midst  of  the  market-place  of  Tulla,  having  a  little 
manikin  (said  to  have  been  the  god  Uitzilopochtli) 
dancing  upon  his  hand.  There  was  an  instant  uproar 
of  all  the  buyers  and  sellers  and  a  rush  to  see  the 
miracle.  The  people  crushed  and  trod  each  other 
down,  so  that  many  were  killed  there  ;  and  all  this 
happened  many  times.  At  last  the  god-sorcerer  cried 
out  on  one  such  occasion  :  "  What  is  this  ?  Do  you 
not  see  that  you  are  befooled  by  us  ?  Stone  and  kill 
us."  So  the  people  took  up  stones  and  killed  the  said 
sorcerer  and  his  little  dancing  manikin.  But  when 
the  body  of  the  sorcerer  had  lain  in  the  market-place 
for  some  time  it  began  to  stink  and  to  taint  the  air, 
and  the  wind  of  it  poisoned  many.  Then  the  dead 
sorcerer  spoke  again,  saying :  '  Cast  this  body 


outside  the  town,  for  many  Toltecs  die  because  of  it.' 
So  they  prepared  to  cast  out  the  body,  and  fastened 
ropes  thereto  and  pulled.  But  the  ill-smelling  corpse 
was  so  heavy  that  they  could  not  move  it.  Then  a 
crier  made  a  proclamation,  saying  :  c  Come,  all  ye 
Toltecs,  and  bring  ropes  with  you,  that  we  may  drag 
out  and  get  rid  of  this  pestilential  carcass.'  All  came 
accordingly,  bringing  ropes,  and  the  ropes  were  fas- 
tened to  the  body  and  all  pulled.  It  was  utterly  in 
vain.  Rope  after  rope  broke  with  a  sudden  snap,  and 
those  that  dragged  on  a  rope  fell  and  were  killed  when 
it  broke.  Then  the  dead  wizard  looked  up  and  said  : 
'  O  Toltecs,  a  verse  of  song  is  needed.'  And  he  himself 
gave  them  a  verse.  They  repeated  the  verse  after 
him,  and,  singing  it,  pulled  all  together,  so  that  with 
shouts  they  hauled  the  body  out  of  the  city,  though 
still  not  without  many  ropes  breaking  and  many 
persons  being  killed  as  before.  All  this  being  over, 
those  Toltecs  that  remained  unhurt  returned  every 
man  to  his  place,  not  remembering  anything  of  what 
had  happened,  for  they  were  all  as  drunken." 

Other  signs  and  wonders  were  wrought  by  Tezcatli- 
poca  in  his  role  of  sorcerer.  A  white  bird  called  Iztac 
cuixtli  was  clearly  seen  flying  over  Tollan,  transfixed 
with  a  dart.  At  night  also  the  sierra  called  Zapatec 
burned,  and  the  flames  were  seen  from  afar.  All  the 
people  were  stirred  up  and  affrighted,  saying  one  to 
another,  "  O  Toltecs,  it  is  all  over  with  us  now  ;  the 
time  of  the  end  of  Tollan  is  come  ;  alas  for  us,  whither 
shall  we  go  ?  " 

Wizard-like  also  was  the  god  Uitzilopochtli.  In- 
deed the  derivation  of  his  name,  "  Humming-bird 
wizard,"  makes  this  plain  enough.1  "He  was,"  says 
Sahagun,  "  a  necromancer  and  friend  of  disguises." 

1  The  older  derivation  of  his  name,  "  Humming-bird  to  the  left," 
seems  to  me  fantastic.  ' '  Left ' '  in  Mexican,  as  in  some  other  tongues, 
has  the  significance  of  wizardry,  of  the  "  sinister." 


His  other  name,  Uitznauitl,  shows  that  he  was  asso- 
ciated also  with  prophecy  and  oracular  speech,  to 
deliver  which  he  sometimes  took  the  shape  of  a  bird. 
He  was,  too,  the  brother  of  the  "  Four  Hundred 
Southerners,"  the  stars  of  the  Southern  Hemisphere, 
who  were  regarded  as  demons,  and  seem  to  have  been 
the  same  as  the  Tzitzimime  demons,  to  be  alluded  to 

Clavigero,  relating  this  myth,  says  :  "  Huitzilo- 
pochtli,  or  Mexitli,  was  the  god  of  war ;  the  deity 
the  most  honoured  by  the  Mexicans,  and  their  chief 
protector.  Of  this  god  some  said  he  was  a  pure  spirit, 
others  that  he  was  born  of  a  woman,  but  without  the 
assistance  of  a  man,  and  described  his  birth  in  the 
following  manner  :  There  lived,  said  they,  in  Coatepec, 
a  place  near  to  the  ancient  city  of  Tula  (Tollan),  a 
woman  called  Coatlicue,  mother  of  the  Centzonhuiz- 
nahuas  (or  Four  Hundred  Southerners),  who  was 
extremely  devoted  to  the  worship  of  the  gods.  One 
day,  as  she  was  employed,  according  to  her  usual 
custom,  in  walking  in  the  temple,  she  beheld  descend- 
ing in  the  air  a  ball  made  of  various  feathers.  She 
seized  it  and  kept  it  in  her  bosom,  intending  after- 
wards to  employ  the  feathers  in  the  decoration  of  the 
altar  ;  but  when  she  sought  it  after  her  walk  was  at 
an  end  she  could  not  find  it,  at  which  she  was 
extremely  surprised,  and  her  wonder  was  very  greatly 
increased  when  she  began  to  perceive  from  that 
moment  that  she  was  pregnant.  Her  pregnancy 
advanced  till  it  was  discovered  by  her  children,  who, 
although  they  could  not  themselves  suspect  their 
mother's  virtue,  yet  fearing  the  disgrace  she  would 
suffer  upon  her  delivery,  determined  to  prevent  it  by 
putting  her  to  death.  They  could  not  take  their 
resolution  so  secretly  as  to  conceal  it  from  their 
mother,  who,  while  she  was  in  deep  affliction  at  the 
thought  of  dying  by  the  hands  of  her  own  children, 


heard  an  unexpected  voice  issue  from  her  womb, 
saying,  '  Be  not  afraid,  mother,  I  shall  save  you  with 
the  greatest  honour  to  yourself  and  glory  to  me.5 

"  Her  hard-hearted  sons,  guided  and  encouraged 
by  their  sister  Cojolxauhqui,  who  had  been  the  most 
keenly  bent  upon  the  deed,  were  now  just  upon  the 
point  of  executing  their  purpose,  when  Huitzilo- 
pochtli  was  born,  with  a  shield  in  his  left  hancf,  a 
spear  in  his  right,  and  a  crest  of  green  feathers  on 
his  head  ;  his  left  leg  adorned  with  feathers,  and  his 
face,  arms,  and  thighs  streaked  with  blue  lines.  As 
soon  as  he  came  into  the  world  he  displayed  a  twisted 
pine,  and  commanded  one  of  his  soldiers,  called 
Tochchancalqui,  to  fell  with  it  Cojolxauhqui,  as  the 
one  who  had  been  the  most  guilty  ;  and  he  himself 
attacked  the  rest  with  so  much  fury  that,  in  spite  of 
their  efforts,  their  arms,  or  their  entreaties,  he  killed 
them  all,  plundered  their  houses,  and  presented  the 
spoils  to  his  mother.  Mankind  were  so  terrified  by 
this  event  that  from  that  time  they  called  him 
Tetzahuitl  (terror)  and  Tetzauhteotl  (terrible  god). 

"  This  was  the  god  who,  as  they  said,  becoming  the 
protector  of  the  Mexicans,  conducted  them  for  so 
many  years  in  their  pilgrimage,  and  at  length  settled 
them  where  they  afterwards  founded  the  great  city 
of  Mexico.  They  raised  to  him  that  superb  temple, 
so  much  celebrated,  even  by  the  Spaniards,  in  which 
were  annually  holden  three  solemn  festivals  in  the 
fifth,  ninth,  and  fifteenth  months  ;  besides  those  kept 
every  four  years,  every  thirteen  years,  and  at  the 
beginning  of  every  century.  His  statue  was  of  gigantic 
size,  in  the  posture  of  a  man  seated  on  a  blue-coloured 
bench,  from  the  four  corners  of  which  issued  four 
huge  snakes.  His  forehead  was  blue,  but  his  face 
was  covered  with  a  golden  mask,  while  another  of 
the  same  kind  covered  the  back  of  his  head.  Upon 
his  head  he  carried  a  beautiful  crest,  shaped  like  the 


beak  of  a  bird  ;  upon  his  neck  a  collar  consisting  of 
ten  figures  of  the  human  heart ;  in  his  right  hand  a 
large  blue  twisted  club  ;  in  his  left  a  shield,  or  quin- 
cuncc,  on  which  appeared  five  balls  of  feathers  dis- 
posed in  the  form  of  a  cross,  and  from  the  upper  part 
of  the  shield  rose  a  golden  flag  with  four  arrows, 
which  the  Mexicans  pretended  to  have  been  sent  to 
them  from  heaven  to  perform  those  glorious  actions 
which  we  have  seen  in  their  history.  His  body  was 
girt  with  a  large  golden  snake  and  adorned  with 
lesser  figures  of  animals  made  of  gold  and  precious 
stones,  which  ornaments  and  insignia  had  each  their 
peculiar  meaning.  They  never  deliberated  upon 
making  war  without  imploring  the  protection  of  this 
god  with  prayers  and  sacrifices  ;  and  offered  up  a 
greater  number  of  human  victims  to  him  than  to  any 
other  of  the  gods." 

Acosta  says  of  his  appearance  :  "  The  chief est  idoll 
of  Mexico  was,  as  I  have  sayde,  Vitziliputzli.  It  was 
an  image  of  wood  like  to  a  man,  set  upon  a  stoole  of 
the  coloure  of  azure,  in  a  brankard  or  litter,  in  every 
corner  was  a  piece  of  wood  in  forme  of  a  serpent's 
head.  The  stoole  signified  that  he  was  set  in  heaven. 
This  idol  had  all  the  forehead  azure,  and  had  a  band 
of  azure  under  the  nose  from  one  ear  to  another. 
Upon  his  head  he  had  a  rich  plume  of  feathers  like 
to  the  beak  of  a  small  bird,  the  which  was  covered 
on  the  top  with  gold  burnished  very  brown.  He  had 
in  his  left  hand  a  small  target,  with  the  figures  of  five 
pineapples  made  in  white  feathers  set  in  a  cross. 
And  from  above  issued  forth  a  crest  in  gold,  and  at 
his  sides  hee  hadde  foure  dartes,  which  (the  Mexicaines 
say)  had  been  sent  from  heaven,  which  shall  be 
spoken  of.  In  his  right  hand  he  had  an  azured  staffe 
cut  in  the  fashion  of  a  waving  snake.  All  those  orna- 
ments with  the  rest  hee  hadde,  carried  his  sence  as 
the  Mexicaines  doe  shew." 


Horrible  human  sacrifices  took  place  in  honour  of 
this  god,  but  with  this  side  of  his  worship  we  have  no 
concern  here. 

Cinteotl,  the  young  god  of  the  maize-plant,  has 
certain  affinities  with  witchcraft.  A  song  in  his 
honour  says : 

"  I  came  to  the  place  where  the  roads  meet, 

I,  the  Maize -god. 
Where  shall  I  now  go  ? 
Which  way  shall  I  take  ?  " 

"  The  place  where  the  roads  meet  "  is  of  course 
the  haunting-place  of  the  Ciuateteo,  or  witches,  later 
to  be  described.  The  god  complains  that  he  has  a 
difficulty  in  finding  his  way  at  the  cross-roads.  This 
was  the  precise  reason  for  which  they  were  made,  so 
that  the  witches  should  be  puzzled  by  them  and  know 
not  which  route  to  take  to  approach  their  victims. 
Witches  all  the  world  over  are  baffled  by  cross-roads, 
and  formerly  the  bodies  of  suicides  and  vampires 
were  buried  beneath  them,  so  that,  did  their  evil 
ghosts  arise,  they  would  be  puzzled  by  the  multi- 
plicity of  directions,  "  wandered,"  as  the  Scottish 
country  folk  say,  and  baffled  in  their  intent  to  haunt 
the  living.  Cinteotl's  mother,  Tlazolteotl,  as  we  shall 
see  later,  fulfilled  the  Mexican  idea  of  the  Queen  of 
the  witches,  and  he  was  the  husband  of  Xochiquetzal, 
who  may  be  described  as  the  ruler  of  the  Mexican 
Fairyland.  Cinteotl  must  also  be  regarded  as  one  of 
the  plutonic  deities,  as,  indeed,  most  grain-gods  are, 
a  figure  associated  with  the  Underworld,  the  place  of 
the  dead,  the  realm  in  which  the  seed  germinates  ere 
it  sprouts  above  ground. 

A  terrible  and  phantom-like  goddess  was  Ciuacoatl, 
or  "  Serpent  Woman,"  another  of  the  deities  of  grain. 
She  is  depicted  as  dressed  in  gorgeous  robes,  but  with 
the  face  of  a  skull,  her  headdress  ornamented  with 
sacrificial  flint  knives.  She  dispensed  bad  fortune, 


abjectness  and  misery.  She  was  wont  to  appear  to 
men  in  the  guise  of  a  richly  dressed  lady,  such  as 
frequented  the  court.  Through  the  night  she  wan- 
dered, howling  and  bellowing.  Occasionally  this 
ghost-like  divinity  was  seen  carrying  a  cradle,  and 
when  she  vanished,  examination  showed  that  the 
resting-place  of  what  was  believed  to  be  an  infant 
contained  nothing  but  an  obsidian  knife,  such  as  was 
used  in  human  sacrifice. 

Xipe  Totec  was  a  dismal  god  of  human  sacrifice, 
who  had  likewise  fiendish  or  ghostly  characteristics. 
He  was  the  god  of  penance,  once  a  man,  who  betook 
himself  to  the  mountain  Catcitepulz,  a  height  covered 
with  thorns,  to  lead  a  life  of  seclusion.  The  inter- 
preter of  the  "  Codex  Vaticanus  "  says  of  him  : 

"  They  hold  him  in  the  utmost  veneration,  for  they 
say  that  he  was  the  first  who  opened  to  them  the  way 
to  heaven  ;  for  they  were  under  this  error  amongst 
others  :  they  supposed  that  only  those  who  died  in 
war  went  to  heaven,  as  we  have  already  said.  Whilst 
Totec  still  continued  doing  penance,  preaching  and 
crying  from  the  top  of  the  mountain  which  has  been 
named,  they  pretend  that  he  dreamed  this  night  that 
he  beheld  a  horrible  figure  with  its  bowels  protruding, 
which  was  the  cause  of  the  great  abomination  of  his 
people.  On  this,  praying  to  his  god  to  reveal  to  him 
what  the  figure  signified,  he  answered  that  it  was  the 
sin  of  his  people,  and  that  he  should  issue  an  order 
to  the  people,  and  cause  them  all  to  be  assembled, 
charging  them  to  bring  thick  ropes  and  to  bind  that 
miserable  spectre,  as  it  was  the  cause  of  all  their  sins, 
and  that,  dragging  it  away,  they  should  remove  it 
from  the  people,  who,  giving  faith  to  the  words  of 
Totec,  were  by  him  conducted  to  a  certain  wild  place, 
where  they  found  the  figure  of  death,  which,  having 
bound,  they  dragged  it  to  a  distance,  and  drawing  it 
backwards,  they  fell  all  into  a  cavity  between  the  two 


mountains,  which  closed  together,  and  there  they 
have  remained  buried  ever  since  ;  none  of  them  having 
effected  their  escape,  with  the  exception  of  the  inno- 
cent children,  who  remained  in  Tulan." 

That  portion  of  the  story  which  details  the  burial 
en  masse  of  the  Toltecs  is,  of  course,  the  widespread 
tale  of  the  disappearance  of  the  old  hero-race  under- 
ground— the  fate  which  overtook  Charlemagne  and 
his  peers,  King  Arthur  and  "  the  auld  Picts  "  at 
Arthur's  Seat,  near  Edinburgh,  Barbarossa  and  his 
men,  and  many  another  group  of  paladins.  The 
whole  may  allude,  in  the  ultimate,  to  mound-burial. 
It  is  strange  too — or  quite  natural,  as  we  believe  in, 
or  doubt,  the  penetration  of  America  by  alien  influ- 
ences— to  find  in  Mexico  an  incomplete  variant  of 
the  legend  of  the  Pied  Piper  of  Hamelin.  I  should 
not  be  surprised  to  find  that  Xipe  piped  the  Toltec 
people  into  the  Underworld,  for  Tezcatlipoca,  with 
whom  he  was  identified,  or  at  least  the  captive  who 
represented  that  god  at  the  Toxcatl  festival,  and  who 
had  a  year  of  merriment  in  which  to  prepare  himself 
for  his  fate,  went  through  the  city  at  intervals,  playing 
upon  a  flute.  This  almost  universal  myth  ma}^  allude 
to  the  ancient  belief  that  the  souls  of  the  dead  travelled 
with  the  wind,  and  were  the  cause  of  its  sighing  and 
whistling.  We  know,  too,  that  the  whistling  of  the 
night  wind  through  the  mountains  was  regarded  by 
the  Mexicans  as  of  evil  omen,  and  that  Yoalli  Eecatl 
(The  Wind  of  Night)  was  one  of  the  names  of  Tez- 

Xipe  was  also  the  "  night  drinker,"  the  vampire- 
being  who  sucked  the  blood  of  penitents  during  the 
hours  of  slumber.  Few  deities  were  more  dreaded  by 
the  wretched  Mexican  peasants,  by  malefactors,  and 
by  the  tribal  enemies  of  the  Aztecs,  who  were  usually 
sacrificed  to  him  after  a  mock  combat.  That  this 
bloodthirsty  being  was  regarded  as  the  god  of  peni- 


tence  arose,  of  course,  out  of  the  extraordinary 
importance  of  blood  in  the  Mexican  religion,  the 
vehicle  which  sustained  the  gods  in  life  and  which 
the  Aztec  penitents  shed  on  the  altars  by  pricking 
their  tongues  and  thighs  with  thorns. 

Itzpapalotl,  the  horrible  "  obsidian-knife  butter- 
fly," was  a  supernatural  being  who  combined  attri- 
butes of  the  butterfly,  or  soul,  with  the  knife  of 
sacrifice.  The  butterfly  in  many  mythologies  is  the 
ghost  of  the  dead,  and  in  this  ghastly  creature  we 
find  it  associated  with  the  horror  of  the  altars  of 
blood.  Indeed  the  very  name  appears  as  of  deathly 
and  hideous  omen.  This  goddess  of  weird  propen- 
sity has  butterfly  wings  edged  round  with  stone 
knives.  Her  dreadful  face  is  tricked  out  with  the 
cosmetics  of  the  Mexican  court  ladies,  rubber  patches 
and  white  chalk.  Her  claws  are  borrowed  from  the 
jaguar,  and  sometimes  she  is  represented  as  having  a 
skull  instead  of  a  face,  in  the  nasal  orifice  of  which  is 
set  a  sacrificial  knife. 

In  other  pictures  she  is  painted  as  wearing  a  naualli, 
or  disguise  of  butterfly  form,  a  magical  cloak  worn  by 
all  necromancers  to  change  their  appearance.  She 
also  wears  the  witches'  loin-cloth  trimmed  with  a 
hem  of  human  teeth,  probably  taken  from  a  grave- 
yard. When  she  "  appeared  "  to  men  they  could 
see  only  her  claw-edged  feet.  That  she  was  a  demon 
is  plain  not  only  from  her  general  appearance,  but 
from  the  fact  that  she  is  enumerated  along  with 
those  who  fell  from  heaven,  Uitzilopochtli  and 
Tezcatlipoca  among  the  rest. 

That  Itzpapalotl  was  associated  with  the  story  of 
the  fall  from  heaven  or  paradise  is  plain  from  the 
account  of  her  furnished  by  the  interpreter  of  the 
"  Codex  Vaticanus  A,"  who,  however,  errs  in  regarding 
her  as  a  male  deity.  He  says  :  "  Yxpapalotl  signifies 
a  knife  of  butterflies.  He  was  one  of  those  gods  who, 



as  they  affirm,  were  expelled  from  heaven  ;  and  on 
this  account  they  paint  him  surrounded  with  knives 
and  wings  of  butterflies.  They  represent  him  with 
the  feet  of  an  eagle,  because  they  say  that  he  occa- 
sionally appears  to  them,  and  they  only  see  the  feet 
of  an  eagle.  They  further  add  that,  being  in  a  garden 
of  great  delight,  he  pulled  some  roses,  but  that  sud- 
denly the  tree  broke  and  blood  streamed  from  it ; 
and  that  in  consequence  of  this  they  were  deprived 
of  that  place  of  enjoyment  and  were  cast  into  this 
world  because  Tonacatecutli  and  his  wife  became 
incensed,  and  accordingly  they  came  some  of  them 
to  the  earth,  and  others  went  to  hell.  He  presided 
over  these  thirteen  signs  (certain  symbols  of  the 
calendar),  the  first  of  which  the  house  (calli)  they 
considered  unfortunate,  because  they  said  that 
demons  came  through  the  air  on  that  sign  in  the 
figures  of  women  such  as  we  call  witches,  who  usually 
went  to  the  highways,  where  they  met  in  the  form 
of  a  cross." 

Itzpapalotl  was  one  of  the  Tzitzimime,  or  demons 
of  darkness,  and  as  such  symbolically  took  insect 
shape.  I  believe  her  to  have  been  developed  from  the 
idea  of  the  deer,  which  is,  after  all,  a  surrogate  of  the 
dragon,  and  indeed  she  is  identified  in  one  tale  with 
the  mythical  deer  Itzcueye.  We  know,  too,  that  the 
butterfly,  or  ghost-symbol,  was  associated  with  the 
Ciuateted  or  dead  witches,  to  whose  spirits  the  people 
offered  cakes  stamped  with  a  butterfly  symbol. 

The  gods  of  death  and  the  Underworld  naturally 
had  a  plutonic  and  magical  significance.  At  the  head 
of  these  was  Mictlantecutli,  or  "  Lord  of  Mictlampa," 
the  region  of  death,  or  Hades.  He  was  depicted  as  a 
skeleton,  the  arms  and  legs  of  which  were  painted 
white  with  yellow  spots  pricked  in  red  to  symbolize 
the  bones  of  a  newly  flayed  person.  Beside  him  are 
depicted  the  ominous  symbols  of  the  witches'  cross- 


roads  and  the  owl,  the  mummy-bundle  and  the  grass 
of  the  desert,  along  with  a  smoking  dish  of  human 

The  interpreter  of '  'Codex  Vaticanus  A' '  says  of  Mict- 
lantecutli :  "  He  descends  for  souls  as  a  spider  lowers 
itself  with  its  head  downwards  from  the  web."  Later 
on  he  states  that  "he  is  the  great  lord  of  the  dead 
below  in  hell,  who  alone  after  Tonacatecutli  (Lord  of 
the  Sun)  was  painted  with  a  crown.  .  .  .  They 
painted  this  demon  near  the  sun,  for  in  the  same  way 
as  they  believed  that  the  one  conducted  souls  to 
heaven,  so  they  supposed  that  the  other  carried  them 
to  hell.  He  is  here  represented  (that  is  in  the  codex) 
with  his  hands  open  and  stretched  towards  the  sun 
to  seize  on  any  soul  that  might  escape  from  him." 

Mictlantecutli,  it  would  seem,  is  neither  more  nor 
less  than  a  god  of  the  dead,  that  is,  his  original  con- 
ception was  probably  that  of  a  prince  of  Hades,  a 
ruler  of  the  realm  of  the  departed,  who  in  time  came 
to  possess  the  terrific  aspect  and  the  punitive  attri- 
butes of  a  deity  whose  office  it  was  to  torment  the 
souls  of  the  erring.  The  fact  that  he  presides  over 
the  eleventh  hour — the  hour  of  sunset — indicates  that 
he  was  in  a  measure  identified  with  the  night,  as 
indeed  certain  aspects  of  his  insignia  would  appear 
to  show.  In  a  manner  he  must  be  regarded  as  the 
earth  which,  in  its  form  of  the  grave,  yawns  or  gapes 
insatiably  for  the  bodies  of  the  dead. 

His  terrible  wife,  Mictecaciuatl,  strongly  resembles 
him.  Tepeyollotl,  another  of  the  Tzitzimimes,  seems 
to  have  represented  both  ghost  and  grave,  earthquake 
and  cave,  a  horrid  blending  of  the  attributes  of  mor- 
tality. But  he  seems  also  to  have  been  the  jaguar 
in  his  form  of  wer-beast,  something  devouring, 

From  all  this  we  clearly  discern  the  true  tendency 
of  Mexican  magic.  The  gods  were  not  so  much  gods 


in  the  usual  acceptance  of  the  term  as  magical  forces 
personalized,  divine  figures,  who,  in  some  cases,  had 
once  been  sorcerers  or  medicine-men.  We  have  a 
similar  example  in  ancient  Britain,  where  Merlin,  the 
supreme  wizard,  came  in  time  to  be  regarded  as  a 
deity,  and  the  whole  island  as  his  "  place "  or 
"  enclosure,"  the  area  of  his  magical  scope. 

Small  wonder,  then,  that  the  ignorant  among  the 
Mexicans,  the  people  at  large,  feared  and  dreaded 
the  gods.  But  the  instructed  classes  and  the  priest- 
hood regarded  them  very  differently.  They  strove  to 
understand  the  magical  system  which  these  beings 
were  thought  to  have  initiated,  and  to  wield  it  for  the 
general  behoof  according  to  their  lights.  They  were 
men  engaged  in  the  effort  of  comprehending  and  eluci- 
dating a  vast  system  of  philosophical  magic,  contained 
in  myth,  symbolism,  and  astrology,  just  as  the 
European  magicians,  astrologers,  and  alchemists  of 
the  Middle  Ages  were  in  a  similar  manner  devoted  to 
the  study  of  a  magical  system  of  more  various  origin 
bequeathed  to  them  from  the  past  in  East  and  West, 
which  they  attempted  to  standardize  and  use.  In 
the  Mexican  occult  system,  which  was  also  the 
Mexican  religion,  we  behold  a  stage  of  the  develop- 
ment of  magical  science  not  at  its  most  delectable, 
perhaps,  but  rather  at  such  an  evolutionary  phase  as 
all  such  wisdom-religions  or  occult  philosophies  must 
pass  through  on  the  road  to  perfection,  and  there  is 
every  indication  that,  had  it  not  been  cut  short  by 
the  Spanish  invasion,  it  would  have  in  time  developed 
into  a  system  of  magico-religious  thought  such  as  is 
to  be  observed  in  earlier  Brahmanism  or  in  the 
philosophy  of  ancient  Egypt. 

At  the  period  when  Cortes  dealt  it  its  first  reverse, 
this  system  was  slowly  emerging  from  a  phase  in 
which  the  minds  of  its  ministers  were  engaged  in 
grappling  with  the  problem  of  demonism*  They  were 


in  the  process  of  discovering  how,  precisely,  those 
dark  powers  to  whom  they  attributed  the  rule  and 
hegemony  of  this  world  and  human  society  might  be 
persuaded  to  employ  their  might  for  the  good  of 
man.  The  one  means  by  which  they  considered  it 
possible  to  enlist  the  sympathies  of  the  agencies  in 
which  they  believed  was  by  regaling  them  with 
human  sacrifices.  We  see  in  the  earlier  form  of 
British  Druidism  a  similar  condition  and  belief.  We 
know  that  the  ancient  system  of  worship  once  in 
vogue  in  our  islands  inculcated  the  need  for  human 
sacrifice,  but  that  it  also  contained  the  germs  of  much 
loftier  ideas,  that,  in  the  course  of  centuries,  it 
excogitated  a  large  philosophy  of  occult  lore  of  a 
most  sublime  character.  Similarly,  then,  the  Mexican 
dispensation  in  vogue  at  the  time  of  the  coming  of 
the  Spaniards  contained  within  itself  the  seeds  and 
promise  of  greatly  higher  development.  In  the  exalted 
prayers  to  the  gods,  in  the  explanations  of  the  priest- 
hood, in  the  extraordinary  mythology  of  the  Aztecs, 
we  can  trace  the  underlying  conditions  and  psychology 
of  a  great  magical  lore  slowly  coming  to  fruition. 
Twisted  and  distorted  out  of  all  semblance  to  its 
original  form  as  it  has  been  by  the  worthy  friars  who 
have  bequeathed  to  us  its  broken  fragments,  is  it 
remarkable  that  we  have  not  so  far  estimated  it  at 
its  true  worth,  but  have  regarded  it  as  the  mere 
devil-worship  of  degenerate  barbarism  ? 

Let  us  probe  beneath  the  surface  and  try  to  discern 
the  inner  significance  of  what  was  actually  a  well- 
considered  body  of  occult  learning.  In  the  first  place 
we  find  an  ancient  and  well-founded  belief  in  a 
supreme  being,  an  all-father,  a  god  behind  the  gods, 
who,  however,  appears  to  have  adopted  a  somewhat 
remote  attitude  towards  human  affairs.  This  First 
Cause  the  Aztecs  called  Teotl,  or  "  the  god,"  and  that 
he  was  eternal  and  unfathomable  in  his  nature  all 


authorities  are  agreed.  The  myths  regarding  the 
creator  of  the  universe  are  somewhat  conflicting,  but 
display  a  belief  in  the  various  demiurgic  processes 
familiar  to  most  mythologies,  and  scarcely  concern  us 
in  this  place.  A  myth  of  wide  acceptance  was  that 
which  told  of  the  periodic  or  epochal  destruction  of 
the  world  and  of  man  by  the  agencies  of  fire,  air, 
earthquake,  and  flood  at  dates  the  most  distant  and 
remote.  At  the  time  of  the  Spanish  invasion  the 
Mexicans  were  awaiting  with  considerable  dread  the 
advent  of  a  fifth  cataclysm  of  the  kind,  and  every 
fifty-two  years  the  possibility  of  such  a  catastrophe 
came  round  and  might  only  be  avoided  by  sacrifice 
on  a  grand  scale. 

But  the  grand  arcanum  or  secret  of  the  Mexican 
priests  seems  to  have  resided  in  the  belief  that  the 
balance  of  the  universe  in  which  they  lived  could  be 
held  only  by  the  observance  of  penitential  pro- 
prieties which  included  not  sacrifice  alone,  but  the 
study  of  omens  and  portents.  Augury  and  astrology 
were,  indeed,  the  chief  means  by  which  humanity 
might  be  safeguarded  from  destruction  or  sorrow. 
Nevertheless,  the  entire  wisdom  of  the  priesthood  by 
no  means  resided  in  the  proper  use  of  the  tonalamatl, 
or  Book  of  Fate,  or  in  the  observance  of  auspices,  as 
has  too  hastily  been  concluded.  Side  by  side  with 
them  the  hierophant  cultivated  mysteries  which  con- 
cealed and  enshrined  a  system  of  thought  of  which 
the  astrological  and  divinatory  systems  were  merely 
the  outward  symbols,  as  will  be  shown  later  on. 


THE  "  official "  magic  of  Mexico  was  almost 
entirely  the  preserve  of  a  class  of  sorcerers 
known  as  naualli,  who  may  have  been  a 
section  of  the  priesthood  especially  deputed  for  this 
service,  although  many  of  them  practised  their  art 
separately.  Regarding  the  powers  of  this  caste,  we 
possess  sufficient  information  to  give  us  a  good  general 
indication  of  their  beliefs  and  practices. 

The  Spanish  priesthood  has  bequeathed  to  us 
certain  notices  regarding  the  naualli  which,  however, 
give  us  a  somewhat  confused  notion  of  their  attributes. 
"  The  naualli"  says  the  writer  who  first  mentions 
them,  "  is  he  who  terrifies  people  and  sucks  the  blood 
of  children  during  the  night."  "  These  are  magicians," 
says  Father  Juan  Bautista  in  his  instructions  to  con- 
fessors, printed  at  Mexico  in  the  year  1600,  "  who 
conjure  the  clouds  when  there  is  danger  of  hail  so 
that  the  crops  may  not  be  injured.  They  can  also 
make  a  stick  look  like  a  serpent,  a  mat  like  a  centi- 
pede, a  piece  of  stone  like  a  scorpion,  and  engage  in 
similar  deceptions.  Others  of  them  will  transform 
themselves  to  all  appearance  into  a  tiger,  a  dog,  or  a 
weasel.  Others,  again,  will  take  the  form  of  an  owl 
or  a  cock." 

Nicolas  de  Leon,  in  a  similar  work,  instructs  the 
priest  to  ask  the  natives  such  questions  as  :  "  Art 
thou  a  soothsayer  ?  Dost  thou  foretell  events  by 



reading  signs,  or  by  interpreting  dreams,  or  by  water, 
making  circles  or  figures  on  its  surface  ?  Dost  thou 
suck  the  blood  of  others,  or  dost  thou  wander  about 
at  night,  calling  upon  the  Demon  to  help  thee  ?  Hast 
thou  drunk  peyoil,  or  given  it  to  others  to  drink,  in 
order  to  find  out  secrets  ?  Dost  thou  know  how  to 
speak  to  serpents  in  such  words  that  they  obey 
thee  ?  " 

The  intoxicant  peyotl,  which  the  natives  used  to 
induce  trance,  is  a  species  of  vinagrilla  having  a  white 
tuberous  root,  which  was  the  part  made  use  of.  The 
Aztecs  were  said  to  have  derived  their  knowledge  of 
it  from  an  older  race  who  preceded  them  in  the  land. 
The  intoxication  it  caused  lasted  several  days.  The 
natives  masticated  it  and  then  placed  it  in  a  wooden 
mortar,  where  it  was  left  to  ferment.  Another  medi- 
cine employed  by  the  naualli  for  the  purpose  of  induc- 
ing ecstatic  visions  was  an  unguent  known  as  teopatli, 
or  "  the  divine  remedy,"  a  compound  of  the  seeds  of 
certain  plants,  the  ashes  of  spiders,  scorpions,  and 
other  noxious  insects. 

Magical  enterprises  and  experiments  were  usually 
timed  by  sorcerers  to  take  place  during  the  second, 
fifth  or  seventh  hours  of  the  night,  which  were 
naturally  the  most  dreaded  by  the  common  people 
because  they  were  presided  over  by  gods  of  evil 
repute,  and  thus  were  considered  favourable  to  the 
appearance  of  demons  or  phantoms  and  the  assemblies 
of  witches.  Night,  too,  was  naturally  the  heyday  of 
the  sorcerer  or  naualli,  and  certain  members  of  this 
caste  seem  to  have  practised  vampirism  and  to 
have  taken  the  shape  of  wer-wolves,  or  rather  wer- 

Those  who  desired  to  injure  an  enemy  by  spells 
and  other  enchantments  would  go  by  night  to  the 
dwelling  of  the  naualli  and  bargain  for  the  drug  or 
potion  by  means  of  which  they  hoped  to  be  revenged. 


From  certain  passages  in  the  old  authorities  it  would 
seem  that  these  sorcerers  lived  in  huts  built  of 
wooden  planks  gaily  painted — perhaps  a  development 
of  the  lodge  of  the  medicine-man  with  its  brightly 
coloured  symbolism. 

During  the  hours  of  darkness  the  priestly  occupants 
of  the  teocallis  or  temples  carefully  replenished  the 
braziers,  whose  fires  were  supposed  to  exercise  a 
deterrent  influence  upon  all  evil  visitants  to  the 
earth-sphere.  At  stated  intervals,  too,  they  beat 
drums  and  sounded  conch-shells  to  drive  off  the 
demons  of  gloom,  and  the  trembling  peasant  as  he  lay 
in  his  reed  shack  and  listened  to  the  reverberation  of 
the  tympani  of  serpent  skins,  the  gongs,  and  the 
rude  horns  of  the  sacred  guardians  of  his  peace,  must 
have  been  heartened  by  the  distant  and  reassuring 

All  the  terrors  of  Spanish  ecclesiasticism  could  not 
put  an  end  to  the  practice  of  magic  among  the  Mexi- 
cans. The  minor  feats  of  sorcery  flourished  in  every 
Mexican  town  and  village.  Sahagun  tells  us  how  a 
class  of  professional  conjurers  existed  who  could  roast 
maize  on  a  cloth  without  fire,  produce  as  from  nowhere 
a  spring  or  well  filled  with  fishes,  and  after  setting 
fire  to  and  burning  huts,  restore  them  to  their  original 
condition.  The  conjurer,  asserts  the  chronicler,  might 
on  occasion  even  dismember  himself  and  then  achieve 
the  miracle  of  self -resurrect  ion. 

Perhaps  a  higher  caste  of  the  naualli  were  the 
"  master  magicians,"  who  were  also  known  as  teo- 
pixqui  and  teotecuhtli  or  "  sacred  companions-in- 
arms," and  the  nanahualtin,  "  those  who  know." 
Entrance  to  these  very  select  orders  might  be 
attained  only  after  severe  and  prolonged  tests  of 

The  chief  naualli  or  magician  of  Mexico  was  a 
priest  of  high  rank,  an  astrological  adept,  who  was 


credited  with  the  assumption  of  animal  form  at  will 
and  the  power  of  levitation.  He  acted  as  the  guardian 
of  the  city  against  sorcerers,  and  gave  warning  of 
famine  or  pestilence. 

The  naualli  caste  were  therefore  not  only  suspect 
of  vampirism  but  had  associations  with  witchcraft,  as 
we  shall  see.  They  also  practised  divination  and 
astrology,  as  indeed  did  the  Mexican  priesthood  as  a 
whole.  The  Spanish  priesthood  quickly  discovered 
that  it  was  not  so  much  a  religion  from  which  they 
had  to  wean  the  native  mind  as  an  elaborate  ritual 
mingled  with  magical  practice.  The  dusk  of  magic 
which  shadowed  the  bizarre,  crowded  cities  could 
almost  be  felt  by  those  courageous  priests.  It  was 
easy  enough  to  combat  an  idolatry  regarding  the 
higher  conception  of  which  the  people  had  only  loose 
ideas  and  legendary  glimmerings.  But  the  more 
popular  devil-worship  which  accompanied  it  had  a 
far  stronger  hold  on  the  native  affections.  The  Aztec 
was  enthralled  by  it.  His  whole  life  from  the  cradle 
to  the  grave  was  ordered  by  its  inevitable  and  ghastly 

No  sooner  had  the  Mexican  aristocracy  been 
accounted  for  by  slaughter  or  conversion  than  a 
significant  change  took  place  in  the  tendency  and 
character  of  the  native  faith.  The  Aztec  priesthood, 
realizing  that  if  its  doctrines  were  to  survive  at  all  it 
must  make  a  powerful  appeal  to  the  mass  mind  of 
the  nation,  threw  every  ounce  of  energy  into  the  task 
of  shaping  the  superstitions  of  the  lower  orders  into 
a  deadly  instrument  of  vengeance  against  the  whites. 
In  this  new  movement  magic  of  a  repellent  kind  was 
joined  with  political  conspiracy  against  Spanish 
supremacy,  and  the  extraordinary  cult  thus  developed 
had  for  its  chief  deity  Satan  himself,  if  we  are  to  credit 
the  writings  of  those  who  opposed  it  and  laboured 
untiringly  for  its  destruction. 


This  mysterious  secret  society  had  branches  in  all 
parts  of  the  country,  and  its  members  were  classed  in 
varying  degrees,  initiation  into  which  was  granted 
only  after  prolonged  and  rigorous  experience.  Local 
brotherhoods  or  lodges  were  organized,  and  there 
were  certain  recognized  centres  of  the  cult.  At  each 
of  these  places  was  stationed  a  high  priest  or  master 
magician,  who  had  beneath  his  authority  often  as 
many  as  a  thousand  lesser  priests,  and  who  exercised 
control  over  a  large  district. 

The  priesthood  of  this  guild  was  handed  down  from 
father  to  son.  The  highest  grade  appears  to  have 
been  that  of  Xochimalca,  or  "  flower- weaver,"  prob- 
ably because  its  members  possessed  the  faculty  of 
deceiving  the  senses  of  votaries  by  strange  and 
pleasant  visions. 

Indeed,  the  Spanish  clergy  never  were  quite  posi- 
tive whether  a  native  Mexican  was  a  Christian  or  a 
pagan,  and  in  many  cases  where  it  seemed  the  Indians 
were  of  the  most  devout  character,  subsequent  in- 
vestigation proved  them  to  be  unrepentant  demon- 

Father  Burgoa  describes  very  fully  a  case  of  this 
kind  which  came  under  his  notice  in  1652  in  the 
Zapotec  village  of  San  Francisco  de  Cajonos.  He 
encountered  on  a  tour  of  inspection  an  old  native 
cacique,  or  chief,  of  great  refinement  of  manners  and 
of  a  stately  presence,  who  dressed  in  costly  garments 
after  the  Spanish  fashion,  and  who  was  regarded  by 
the  Indians  with  much  veneration.  This  man  came 
to  the  priest  for  the  purpose  of  reporting  upon  the 
progress  in  things  spiritual  and  temporal  in  his 
village.  Burgoa  recognized  his  urbanity  and  wonder- 
ful command  of  the  Spanish  language,  but  perceived 
by  certain  signs  which  he  had  been  taught  to  look  for 
by  long  experience  that  the  man  was  a  pagan.  He 
communicated  his  suspicions  to  the  vicar  of  the  village, 


but  met  with  such  assurances  of  the  cacique's  sound- 
ness of  faith  that  he  believed  himself  to  be  in  error 
for  once.  Shortly  afterwards,  however,  a  wandering 
Spaniard  perceived  the  chief  in  a  retired  place  in  the 
mountains  performing  idolatrous  ceremonies,  and 
aroused  the  monks,  two  of  whom  accompanied  him 
to  the  spot  where  the  cacique  had  been  seen  indulging 
in  his  heathenish  practices.  They  found  on  the  altar 
"  feathers  of  many  colours,  sprinkled  with  blood 
which  the  Indians  had  drawn  from  the  veins  under 
their  tongues  and  behind  their  ears,  incense  spoons 
and  remains  of  copal,  and  in  the  middle  a  horrible 
stone  figure,  which  was  the  god  to  whom  they  had 
offered  this  sacrifice  in  expiation  of  their  sins,  while 
they  made  their  confessions  to  the  blasphemous 
priests,  and  cast  off  their  sins  in  the  following  manner  : 
they  had  woven  a  kind  of  dish  out  of  a  strong  herb, 
specially  gathered  for  this  purpose,  and  casting  this 
before  the  priest,  said  to  him  that  they  came  to  beg 
mercy  of  their  god,  and  pardon  for  their  sins  they 
had  committed  during  that  year,  and  that  they 
brought  them  all  carefully  enumerated.  They  then 
drew  out  of  a  cloth  pairs  of  thin  threads  made  of  dry 
maize  husks  that  they  had  tied  two  by  two  in  the 
middle  with  a  knot,  by  which  they  represented  their 
sins.  They  laid  these  threads  on  the  dishes  of  grass, 
and  over  them  pierced  their  veins,  and  let  the  blood 
trickle  upon  them,  and  the  priest  took  these  offerings 
to  the  idol,  and  in  a  long  speech  he  begged  the  god  to 
forgive  these,  his  sons,  their  sins  which  were  brought 
to  him,  and  to  permit  them  to  be  joyful  and  hold 
feasts  to  him  as  their  god  and  lord.  Then  the  priest 
came  back  to  those  who  had  confessed,  delivered  a 
long  discourse  on  the  ceremonies  they  had  still  to 
perform,  and  told  them  that  the  god  had  pardoned 
them  and  that  they  might  be  glad  again  and  sin 


Acosta,  the  Spanish  chronicler,  writing  of  the  Mexi- 
can priests  and  their  magical  customs,  says  : 

"  The  priests  of  the  idols  in  Mexico  were  anointed 
in  this  sort ;  they  anointed  the  body  from  the  foot 
to  the  head,  and  all  the  hair  likewise,  which  hung  like 
tresses  or  a  horse's  mane,  for  that  they  applied  this 
unction  wret  and  moist.  Their  hair  grew  so,  as  in 
time  it  hung  down  to  their  hams,  so  heavily  that  it 
was  troublesome  for  them  to  bear  it,  for  they  did 
never  cut  it  until  they  died,  or  that  they  were  dis- 
pensed with  for  their  great  age,  or  being  employed  in 
governments,  or  some  honourable  charge  in  the  com- 
monwealth. They  carried  their  hair  in  tresses  of  six 
fingers  breadth,  which  they  dyed  black  with  the  fume 
of  sapine,  of  fir  trees,  or  rosin  ;  for  in  all  antiquity  it 
hath  been  an  offering  they  made  unto  their  idols  and 
for  this  cause  it  was  much  esteemed  and  reverenced. 
They  were  always  dyed  with  this  tincture  from  the 
foot  to  the  head,  so  as  they  were  like  unto  shining 
negroes,  and  that  was  their  ordinary  unction  :  yet 
when  as  they  went  to  sacrifice  and  give  incense  in  the 
mountains,  or  on  the  tops  thereof,  or  in  any  dark  and 
obscure  caves,  where  their  idols  were,  they  used 
another  kind  of  unction  very  different,  doing  certain 
ceremonies  to  take  away  fear  and  to  give  them 
courage.  This  unction  was  made  with  divers  little 
venomous  beasts,  as  spiders,  scorpions,  palmers, 
salamanders,  and  vipers,  the  which  the  boys  in  the 
colleges  took  and  gathered  together,  wherein  they 
were  so  expert  as  they  were  always  furnished  when 
the  priests  called  for  them.  The  chief  care  of  these 
boys  was  to  hunt  after  these  beasts  ;  if  they  went 
any  other  way,  and  by  chance  met  with  any  of  these 
beasts,  they  stayed  to  take  them  with  as  great  pain, 
as  if  their  lives  depended  thereon.  By  the  reason 
whereof  the  Indians  commonly  feared  not  these 
venomous  beasts,  making  no  more  account  than  if 


they  were  not  so,  having  been  all  bred  in  this  exercise. 
To  make  an  ointment  of  these  beasts  they  took  them 
all  together  and  burnt  them  upon  the  hearth  of  the 
temple  which  was  before  the  altar,  until  they  were 
consumed  to  ashes  :  then  did  they  put  them  in 
mortars  with  much  tobacco  or  petum  (being  an  herb 
that  nation  useth  much  to  benumb  the  flesh  that  they 
may  not  feel  their  travail),  with  the  which  they 
mingle  the  ashes  making  them  lose  their  force  ;  they 
did  likewise  mingle  with  these  ashes  scorpions,  spiders, 
and  palmers  alive,  mingling  all  together,  then  they 
did  put  to  it  a  certain  seed  being  ground  which  they 
call  ololuchqui,  whereof  the  Indians  make  a  drink  to 
see  visions,  for  that  the  virtue  of  this  herb  is  to 
deprive  man  of  sense.  They  did  likewise  grind  with 
these  ashes  black  and  hairy  worms,  whose  hair  only 
is  venomous,  all  which  they  mingled  together  with 
black,  or  the  fume  of  rosin,  putting  it  in  small  pots 
which  they  set  before  their  god,  saying  it  was  his  meat. 
And  therefore  they  called  it  a  divine  meat.  By  means 
of  this  ointment  they  became  witches,  and  did  see 
and  speak  with  the  devil.  The  priests  being  slobbered 
with  this  ointment  lost  all  fear,  putting  on  a  spirit  of 
cruelty.  By  reason  whereof  they  did  very  boldly  kill 
men  in  their  sacrifices,  going  all  alone  in  the  night  to 
the  mountains,  and  into  obscure  caves,  contemning  all 
wild  beasts,  and  holding  it  for  certain  and  approved 
that  both  lions,  tigers,  serpents,  and  other  furious 
beasts  which  breed  in  the  mountains  and  forests 
fled  from  them,  by  virtue  of  this  petum  of  their 

"  And  in  truth,  though  this  petum  had  no  power  to 
make  them  fly,  yet  was  the  devil's  picture  sufficient 
whereinto  they  were  transformed.  This  petum  did 
also  serve  to  cure  the  sick,  and  for  children  :  and 
therefore  all  called  it  the  divine  physic  :  and  so  they 
came  from  all  parts  to  the  superiors  and  priests,  as  to 


their  saviours,  that  they  might  apply  this  divine 
physic,  wherewith  they  anointed  those  parts  that  were 
grieved.  They  said  that  they  felt  hereby  a  notable 
ease,  which  might  be,  for  that  tobacco  and  ololuchqui 
have  this  property  of  themselves,  to  benumb  the 
flesh,  being  applied  in  manner  of  an  emplaster,  which 
must  be  by  a  stronger  reason  being  mingled  with 
poisons,  and  for  that  it  did  appease  and  benumb  the 
pain,  they  held  it  for  an  effect  of  health  and  a  divine 
virtue.  And  therefore  ran  they  to  these  priests  as  to 
holy  men,  who  kept  the  blind  and  ignorant  in  this 
error,  persuading  them  what  they  pleased,  and 
making  them  run  after  their  inventions  and  devilish 
ceremonies,  their  authority  being  such,  as  their  words 
were  sufficient  to  induce  belief  as  an  article  of  their 
faith.  And  thus  made  they  a  thousand  superstitions 
among  the  vulgar  people  in  their  manner  of  offering 
incense,  in  cutting  their  hair,  tying  small  flowers 
about  their  necks,  and  strings  with  small  bones  of 
snakes,  commanding  them  to  bathe  at  a  certain  time  ; 
and  that  they  should  watch  all  night  at  the  hearth 
lest  the  fire  should  die,  that  they  should  eat  no  other 
bread  but  that  which  had  been  offered  to  their  gods, 
that  they  should  upon  any  occasion  repair  unto  their 
witches,  who  with  certain  grains  told  fortunes,  and 
divines,  looking  into  keelers  and  pails  full  of  water. 
The  sorcerers  and  ministers  of  the  Devil  used  much 
to  besmear  themselves.  There  were  an  infinite 
number  of  these  witches,  diviners,  enchanters,  and 
other  false  prophets.  There  remains  yet  at  this  day 
of  this  infextion,  although  they  be  secret,  not 
daring  publicly  to  exercise  their  sacrilegious  devilish 
ceremonies  and  superstitions." 

The  statement  that  fortunes  were  told  with  grain 
is  worthy  of  passing  notice.  Grains  of  maize  or  beans 
were  used  to  discover  whether  a  patient  would  get 
well,  and  the  patroness  of  those  diviners  who  used 


this  medium  was  the  golden  Tozi,  though  the  casting 
of  grains  was  usually  performed  before  an  image  of 
Quetzalcoatl,  the  patron  of  magic.  Some  twenty 
grains  were  cast  upon  a  cloth.  If  they  fell  in  circular 
shape  it  was  held  to  typify  a  grave,  and  therefore 
death,  but  if  in  a  straight  line,  leaving  two  on  each 
side,  the  illness  would  have  a  happy  issue.  If  a  knot 
tied  in  a  string  could  be  loosed  by  pulling  it,  recovery 
would  ensue. 

A  sick  child  would  be  held  over  a  vessel  of  water. 
If  his  reflection  was  dim  he  might  not  recover,  that  is 
his  "  soul  "  or  shadow  was  unhealthy. 

Regarding  these  practices  Father  Clavigero  says  : 
"  Besides  the  usual  unction  with  ink,  another 
extraordinary  and  more  abominable  one  was  prac- 
tised every  time  they  went  to  make  sacrifices  on  the 
tops  of  mountains,  or  in  the  dark  caverns  of  the 
earth.  They  took  a  large  quantity  of  poisonous 
insects,  such  as  scorpions,  spiders,  and  worms,  and 
sometimes  even  small  serpents,  burned  them  over 
some  stove  of  the  temple,  and  beat  their  ashes  in  a 
mortar  together  with  the  foot  of  the  ocotl,  tobacco, 
the  ololuchqui,  and  some  live  insects.  They  presented 
this  diabolical  mixture  in  small  vessels  to  their  gods, 
and  afterwards  rubbed  their  bodies  with  it.  When 
thus  anointed  they  became  fearless  to  every  danger, 
being  persuaded  they  were  rendered  incapable  of 
receiving  any  hurt  from  the  most  noxious  reptiles 
of  the  earth  or  the  wildest  beast  of  the  woods.  They 
called  it  teopatli,  or  divine  medicament,  and  imagined 
it  to  be  a  powerful  remedy  for  several  disorders  ;  on 
which  account  those  who  were  sick,  and  the  young 
children,  went  frequently  to  the  priests  to  be  anointed 
with  it.  The  young  lads  who  were  trained  up  in  the 
seminaries  were  charged  with  the  collecting  of  such 
kind  of  little  animals  ;  and  by  being  accustomed  at 
an  early  age  to  that  kind  of  employment  they  soon 


lost  the  horror  which  attends  the  first  familiarity  with 
such  reptiles.  The  priests  not  only  made  use  of  this 
unction  but  had  likewise  a  ridiculous  superstitious 
practice  of  blowing  with  their  breath  over  the  sick, 
and  made  them  drink  water  which  they  had  blessed 
after  their  manner.  The  priests  of  the  god  Ixtlilton 
were  remarkable  for  this  custom." 

It  is  somewhat  difficult  to  separate  from  religion 
proper  those  rites  in  which  magic  was  employed  in 
public  ceremonies.  At  the  festival  of  the  Ochpaniztli, 
sacred  to  the  goddess  Tlazolteotl,  the  rite  of  the  mys- 
tical birth  of  her  son  Cinteotl  was  celebrated.  Her 
priest  was  decorated  with  her  insignia,  and  thus 
attired  he  came  to  the  teocalli  of  Uitzilopochtli,  where, 
representing  the  goddess,  he  lay  down  to  be  impreg- 
nated by  the  spirit  of  the  god.  Another  priest, 
representing  Cinteotl,  stood  by,  and  was  regarded  as 
the  son  conceived  from  this  intercourse.  Thus,  by 
the  aid  of  sympathetic  magic,  the  new  maize-spirit 
was  born. 

The  power  of  sympathetic  magic  was  also  invoked 
in  the  horrible  human  sacrifices  to  Tlaloc,  the  god  of 
water,  when  the  infants  whose  hair  seemed  to  the 
priests  to  resemble  the  eddies  in  the  lake  were  cere- 
monially drowned  so  as  to  ensure  "  life  "  to  the  waves 
and  whirlpools. 

Magical,  too,  was  the  sham  fight  indulged  in  at  the 
festival  of  Tlacaxipeualitzli,  when  young  men,  clad 
in  the  skins  of  the  wretched  sacrificed  victims  with 
others,  typified,  perhaps,  the  struggle  of  the  renewed 
earth  with  the  forces  of  dearth  and  drought,  a  drama 
similar  to  that  of  Osiris  in  Egypt. 

In  fact,  if  we  carefully  examine  the  circumstances 
of  the  several  Mexican  religious  festivals  we  find  that 
they  practically  all  had  a  magico-dramatic  character, 
in  which  some  particular  mythical  tale,  the  story  of  a 
god  or  fetish,  was  enacted,  and  that  the  rite  so  enacted 


was  supposed  by  the  power  of  sympathetic  magic  to 
be  efficacious  in  producing  the  effects  alluded  to  in 
the  myth  itself. 

Thus  at  the  festival  of  Tepeilhuitl,  sacred  to  the 
gods  of  rain  and  moisture,  little  serpents  and  moun- 
tains were  made  of  maize  paste  which  were  symbolical 
of  the  legend  that  the  rain-gods  dwelt  in  the  hills  and 
that  they  took  the  shapes  of  serpents,  which  typified 
water.  Several  women,  called  after  the  goddesses  of 
fruitfulness,  were  sacrificed  to  give  their  representa- 
tives new  life  along  with  one  man  who  typified  water. 
The  paste  images  were  afterwards  broken  up  and  eaten 
so  that  the  people  might  partake  of  their  qualities. 

But  the  very  apogee  of  sympathetic  magic  is 
reached  in  what  I  will  call  the  Obsidian  Religion  of 
Mexico,  for  in  this  strange  cult,  which  I  personally 
discovered,  the  obsidian  stone  was  regarded  as  a 
magical  substance  which  came  to  wield  an  extra- 
ordinary power  over  every  department  of  Mexican 

As  everyone  engaged  in  research  is  aware,  there 
comes  a  time  when  the  subject  of  study  assumes  an 
aspect  so  thoroughly  at  variance  with  one's  original 
conception  of  it  that  the  student  is  aghast  at  the 
extraordinary  change  presented.  Generally,  such  an 
experience  is  the  fruit  of  prolonged  application  and 
contemplation.  In  my  own  case  it  required  more  than 
twenty  years  of  research  and  groping  in  the  difficult 
field  of  Mexican  religion  to  realize  that  underlying 
what  I  had  always  believed  to  be  the  official  faith  of 
the  Aztecs  was  a  still  earlier  cult  connected  with  the 
obsidian  stone. 

I  was,  of  course,  well  aware  that  obsidian  played  a 
certain  part  in  Aztec  religion  as  a  ceremonial  object 
in  use  on  sacrificial  and  other  occasions,  but  the  full 
measure  of  its  importance  did  not  dawn  on  me  until 
I  began  to  arrange  the  gods  of  the  Mexican  pantheon 


into  groups.  During  this  process  I  observed  that  the 
names  of  at  least  three  of  these  included  the  Mexican 
word  for  obsidian,  itztli.  One  of  these  gods,  indeed, 
was  known  as  Itztli,  the  other  two  being  Itzpapalotl 
("  obsidian  butterfly  ")  and  Itzlacoliuhqui  ("  curved 
obsidian  knife  ").  I  knew  that  Tezcatlipoca,  one  of 
the  principal  Mexican  deities,  was  frequently  repre- 
sented as  an  obsidian  knife,  and  that  the  native 
Aztec  paintings  were  crowded  with  pictures  of  this 
symbol,  which  occurred  so  frequently  that  I  could 
scarcely  be  mistaken  in  placing  a  high  value  on  its 
religious  significance. 

I  had  before  me  at  least  one  other  analogy.  The 
importance  of  jade  in  Chinese  Religion  and  Folklore 
afforded  me  much  food  for  thought.  I  knew  that  the 
implications  of  the  beautiful  jade  stone  permeated 
the  whole  of  Chinese  legend,  folk-belief,  and  theology. 
Then  I  observed  that  several  of  the  Mexican  gods  were 
represented  as  wearing  sandals  made  of  obsidian,  and 
the  sandal,  I  had  formerly  discovered,  must  often  be 
taken  as  an  indication  of  the  significance  of  a  Mexican 
god.  In  fact,  the  longer  I  searched  the  more  traces 
of  obsidian  did  I  find  in  Mexican  lore.  The  image  of 
the  god  Tezcatlipoca,  the  mirror  in  which  he  beheld 
the  doings  of  humanity,  his  death-dealing  arrows, 
were  all  of  obsidian.  The  very  cloak  he  wore  was, 
I  found,  merely  an  adaptation  of  the  net  bag  in 
which  the  Aztec  hunter  carried  his  obsidian  arrow- 

I  found,  too,  that  such  deities  as  were  connected 
with  obsidian  were  exclusively  those  worshipped  by 
the  Aztec  or  Nahua  tribes  of  Mexico,  and  that  the 
cults  of  Quetzalcoatl  and  Tlaloc,  the  deities  of  older 
precedence  in  the  land,  were  associated  with  it  in  a 
secondary  manner  only,  and  very  slightly  at  that — 
that,  indeed,  their  associations  were  with  the  chal- 
chihuitl  stone,  or  native  jadeite. 


I  resolved  to  follow  up  these  clues,  and  did  so  with 
the  following  results  :  Obsidian  is  a  vitreous  natural 
glass,  found  in  the  upper  volcanic  strata  of  Mexico 
and  California,  which  flakes  readily  from  the  core  by 
pressure  and  gains  by  mere  fracture  a  razor-like  edge 
of  considerable  penetrative  power.  The  principal 
quarry  of  this  volcanic  glass  was  the  mountain  known 
as  the  Cerro  de  las  Navajas,  or  "  Hill  of  the  Knives," 
near  Timapan,  and  from  this  centre  obsidian  was 
widely  distributed  by  barter  over  a  very  considerable 
area.  There  would  seem  to  be  proof  that  this  mineral, 
so  suitable  for  the  purposes  of  the  nomadic  hunter, 
was  anciently  known  far  to  the  north  of  Mexico. 
The  observations  of  Dr.  G.  M.  Dawson  in  British 
Columbia  about  1890  satisfied  him  that  trading  inter- 
course was  engaged  in  by  the  coast  tribes  with  those 
of  the  interior  along  the  Frazer  River  Valley  and  far 
to  the  south.  From  the  remotest  times  embraced  in 
their  native  traditions,  the  Bilquila  of  Dean  Inlet 
have  possessed  a  trade  route  by  way  of  the  Bella 
Coola  River  to  the  Tinne  Country,  along  which  trail 
broken  implements  and  chips  of  obsidian  have  been 
found.  Many  of  the  routes  in  British  Columbia  have 
also  yielded  chips  and  flakes  of  obsidian.  The  coast 
tribes  of  British  Columbia  have  been  traders  for 
untold  generations,  exchanging  oolactin  oil  for  such 
materials  as  they  could  make  implements  from,  and 
there  seems  to  be  no  doubt  that  the  Mound-builders  of 
Ohio,  Wisconsin,  and  Kentucky  were  also  acquainted 
with  obsidian,  which  they  could  only  have  obtained 
through  the  process  of  barter.  It  was  thus  either  to 
be  found  in  the  regions  from  which  the  Nahua  of 
Mexico  are  thought  to  have  come,  or  else  obtainable 
through  the  channels  of  trade. 

The  Nahua  were  thus  probably  acquainted  with 
obsidian  and  its  properties  before  their  entrance  into 
Mexico.  This  theory  is  strengthened  by  the  material 


difference  in  workmanship  between  their  tools  and 
weapons  made  of  this  mineral  and  the  stone  and 
copper  implements  of  the  aboriginal  peoples  of 
Mexico.  It  was  naturally  as  a  hunting  people  that 
they  employed  weapons  of  obsidian.  The  herds  of 
deer,  on  the  flesh  of  which  they  chiefly  lived,  roamed 
the  steppes,  and  proof  abounds  that  the  customs  of 
the  chase  strongly  influenced  the  religious  ideas  of 
the  early  Nahua.  Certain  of  their  gods,  indeed,  seem 
to  have  been  developed  from  deer  forms,  for  among 
barbarous  races  the  animal  worshipped  is  frequently 
that  which  provides  the  tribe  with  its  staple  food,  or, 
more  correctly,  a  great  eponymous  figure  of  that 
animal  is  adored — for  example,  the  Great  Deer  who 
sends  the  smaller  deer  to  keep  the  savage  in  life. 
These  deer-gods,  or  hunting-gods  in  some  way  con- 
nected with  the  deer — Itzpapalotl,  Itzcueye,  Mixcoatl, 
Camaxtli — had  also  stellar  attributes.  The  deer  was 
slain  by  the  obsidian  weapon,  which,  therefore,  came 
to  be  regarded  as  the  magical  weapon,  that  by  which 
food  was  procured.  In  the  course  of  time  it  assumed 
a  sacred  significance,  the  hunting-gods  themselves 
came  to  wield  it,  and  it  was  thought  of  as  coming 
from  the  stars  or  the  heavens  where  the  gods  dwelt, 
in  precisely  the  same  manner  as  flint  arrow-heads 
were  regarded  by  the  peasantry  of  Europe  as  "  elf- 
arrows  "  or  "  thunder-stones  " — that  is,  as  something 
supernatural,  falling  from  above. 

When  the  nomadic  tribes,  of  which  the  Aztecs  were 
one,  adopted  an  agricultural  existence,  obsidian  had 
doubtless  been  regarded  as  sacred  for  generations. 
It  was  by  virtue  of  this  supernatural  stone  that  the 
nourishment  of  the  gods  was  maintained  by  the 
sacrifice  of  deer.  By  the  aid  of  lances  and  arrows 
fashioned  from  its  flakes,  deer  were  more  easily 
slaughtered  than  with  clumsier  stone  weapons.  With 
these  primitive  hunters  obsidian  took  much  the  same 


place  as  bronze  did  with  the  Neolithic  peoples,  and 
came  to  be  regarded  as  the  chief  agency  through 
which  the  necessities  of  life  were  acquired. 

But  when  the  Nahua  embraced  a  more  settled 
existence  the  nourishment  of  the  gods  had  neces- 
sarily to  be  maintained  by  other  means  than  the 
sacrifice  of  deer,  which  were  gradually  disappearing. 
Slaves  and  war-captives  were  sacrificed  in  the  place 
of  deer,  their  wrists  and  ankles  being  tied  together 
precisely  in  the  manner  in  which  a  deer  is  trussed  by 
the  hunter.  The  transition  of  deer-sacrifice  by 
obsidian  to  a  human  holocaust  and  from  the  hunting 
to  the  agricultural  condition  of  life  is  well  illustrated 
by  an  ancient  hymn  in  praise  of  the  goddess  Itzpa- 
palotl : 

"  O,  she  has  become  a  goddess  of  the  melon-cactus, 

Our  mother  Itzpapalotl,  the  Obsidian  Butterfly, 

Her  food  is  on  the  Nine  Plains, 

She  was  nurtured  on  the  hearts  of  deer, 

Our  mother  the  earth-goddess.'* 

The  inference  in  these  lines  seems  to  be  that 
whereas  Itzpapalotl  was  formerly  a  goddess  of  the 
Nahua  nomads  of  the  steppes  in  the  north  of  Mexico, 
who  sacrificed  deer  to  her,  she  has  now  become  the 
deity  of  the  melon-cactus  patch  and  an  agricultural 

Mexican  traditions  make  it  very  clear  that  obsidian, 
because  of  its  blood  and  life-procuring  properties, 
came  to  be  regarded  as  the  source  of  all  life,  as  the 
very  principle  of  existence.  Tonacaciuatl,  the  creative 
goddess,  gave  birth  to  an  obsidian  knife  from  which 
sprang  sixteen  hundred  demi-gods  who  peopled  the 
earth.  In  the  native  paintings,  maize,  the  chief  food 
of  the  people,  is  often  pictured  in  the  form  of  an 
obsidian  knife-blade.  Just  as  in  many  myths,  both 
in  the  Old  World  and  the  New,  flint  was  regarded  as 
the  great  fertilizer  because  of  its  supposed  connection 


with  the  lightning,  so  was  obsidian.  Thus,  all  the 
elements  which  go  to  make  for  growth  and  life  came 
to  be  regarded  as  having  a  connection  with  this 
mineral,  even  the  sun  itself  being  identified  with  the 
mirror  of  Tezcatlipoca.  The  hunter's  obsidian  weapon 
which  supplied  the  necessary  pabulum,  became  in 
turn  the  weapon  of  the  warrior  who  procured  victims 
for  the  holocaust,  and  the  sacred  knife  of  the  priest 
who  sacrificed  them  to  the  deity.  Obsidian  was  thus 
chiefly  the  war  weapon  and  the  sacrificial  weapon, 
but  the  traditions  relating  to  it  are  associated  with  all 
the  offices  of  human  art,  industry,  and  activity,  and 
well  illustrate  the  inter-relations  of  early  religion  and 
magic  with  war,  labour,  art,  and  law. 

Probably  after  a  long  career  as  a  fetish,  obsidian 
at  last  became  personalized  or  deified,  just  as  grain 
achieved  a  personality  as  Osiris  or  "  John  Barley- 
corn." The  process  of  development  from  fetish  to 
god  is  a  fairly  clear  one.  From  obsidian  were  manu- 
factured the  mirrors  or  scrying-stones,  in  which 
wizards  or  necromancers  pretended  to  see  visions  of 
the  past  or  the  future.  These  were  known  as  aitzili, 
or  "  water  obsidian,"  probably  because  of  the  high 
polish  they  were  capable  of.  One  of  these  is  carried 
by  Tezcatlipoca.  Many  deities  when  they  arrive  at 
that  stage  of  development  when  they  take  human 
shape  continue  to  be  represented  along  with  their 
fetish  or  totem  shape,  and  that  this  was  so  in  the  case 
of  Tezcatlipoca  admits  of  no  doubt,  as  one  of  his 
minor  names  is  Itztli,  or  "  obsidian,"  and  his  principal 
title  itself  means  merely  "  Smoking  Mirror,"  and,  as 
we  have  seen,  his  idol  was  carved  from  obsidian. 
Obsidian,  the  great  life-preserver  and  food-getter, 
became  identified  in  the  form  of  this  god  as  one  of 
those  magical  stones  which  are  considered  capable  of 
raising  a  storm,  and  therefore  with  the  wind,  the 
cause  or  breath  of  life. 


Obsidian  thus  came  to  be  looked  upon  as  the  symbol 
of  life,  with  every  manifestation  of  which  it  had  inter- 
relations. Just  as  the  oak-cult  of  the  Druids  seems 
to  have  given  an  oak-like  virtue  to  the  oracular  birds 
which  dwelt  within  its  branches,  to  the  soil  from 
which  it  grew,  to  the  sky  above  it,  to  the  priests  who 
ministered  to  it,  and  to  the  sacred  implements  they 
employed,  just  as  the  idea  of  jade  permeated  all 
Chinese  life  and  thought  in  early  times,  so  the  obsidian 
idea  came  to  have  ramifications  in  every  department 
of  Aztec  life.  In  course  of  time  this  magical  idea 
gradually  became  amalgamated  with  the  rather  more 
"  civilized  "  cults  of  Quetzalcoatl  and  Tlaloc.  But 
it  left  its  mark  upon  Mexican  religion  to  the  last,  its 
symbolism  persisted,  and  no  view  of  Aztec  life  is 
complete  which  does  not  take  it  into  consideration 
and  regard  it  as  a  fundamental  in  the  upbuilding  of 
one  of  the  world's  most  interesting  magico-religious 

Thus  the  magic  of  obsidian  assumed  a  religious 
phase,  and  became  one  of  the  chief  considerations  in 
Mexican  life.  It  entered  both  into  practical  occultism 
as  the  medium  for  divination,  and  into  thought  as 
the  supplier  of  blood.  It  had  therefore  a  twofold 
effect  on  the  general  arcane  outlook  of  Mexican 

Numerous  superstitions  came  to  be  associated  with 
the  central  occult  ideas  in  Mexican  life.  If  hair  could 
be  snatched  from  a  sorcerer's  head  it  was  believed 
that  he  would  die  the  same  night  unless  he  could 
steal  or  borrow  something  from  the  house  of  the 
person  who  had  taken  it.  The  animal  world  held 
many  portents  for  man  besides  the  ominous  call  of 
the  owl,  the  bird  of  Mictlantecutli,  the  god  of  death, 
and  it  was  considered  unlucky  to  encounter  a  skunk 
or  a  weasel.  If  rabbits  or  ants  entered  a  house  they 
were  certain  to  bring  bad  luck,  and  if  a  certain  kind 


of  spider  was  found  on  the  walls  of  a  dwelling  the 
inhabitant  traced  a  cross  upon  the  ground,  in  the 
centre  of  which  he  placed  the  insect.  If  it  should 
crawl  northwards  it  was  regarded  as  a  sign  of  death 
for  him  who  caught  it,  as  the  north  was  the  compass 
direction  of  the  Underworld. 

Scores  of  popular  beliefs  were  current.  Before 
maize  was  cooked  it  was  blown  upon  "  to  give  it 
courage  "  or  life,  and  to  neglect  to  pick  up  maize- 
grains  lying  on  the  ground  was  to  court  future  want. 
To  step  over  a  child  was  to  arrest  its  growth,  although 
a  backward  step  could  avert  the  damage  done.  For 
a  girl  to  eat  standing  was  to  risk  the  loss  of  a  husband. 
Children's  first  teeth  were  placed  in  mouse-holes  so 
that  their  subsequent  teeth  might  grow  strong,  the 
idea  being  that  the  proximity  of  rodents  to  the  first 
teeth  would  by  sympathetic  magic  cause  the  next  to 
have  good  growing  power.  Sneezing  was  an  evil 
omen,  and  it  was  thought  that  ill  was  being  spoken 
of  the  sneezer.  The  scent  of  flowers  might  be  inhaled 
from  the  edge  of  a  bouquet  only,  as  the  centre  belonged 
to  the  god  Tezcatlipoca. 

In  short,  most  of  the  superstitions  which  we  our- 
selves still  indulge  in  were  to  be  encountered  among 
the  ancient  Mexicans. 

I  shall  try  through  the  medium  of  fiction  to  afford 
the  reader  a  picture  more  or  less  complete  of  magic 
in  Old  Mexico,  for  to  my  way  of  thinking  one  of 
the  most  legitimate  uses  to  which  fiction  can  be 
put  is  the  illumination  of  the  past  by  its  imaginary 

From  among  the  blue  shadows  of  a  night  in  Old 
Mexico  arose  the  great  pyramid  temple  of  Uitzil,  god 
of  war,  the  braziers  on  its  summit  glowing  sullenly  in 
despite  of  a  moon  of  full  sovereignty.  Half-way  up 
the  staircase  which  writhed  around  the  white  pile  sat 
a  little  old  man,  bald  and  ragged,  with  a  curious, 


carven  face  and  wicked  half-blind  eyes.  This  was 
Total,  the  rag-picker.  Raking  among  the  gutters  of 
the  House  of  Archives,  he  had  come  upon  a  painted 
manuscript,  and  thinking  it  a  contract  or  such-like, 
had  pushed  it  into  his  sack  with  other  street  flotsam. 
But  appraising  his  discovery  at  night  in  his  waterside 
shack,  he  had  spelled  through  its  symbols,  and  as  he 
was  a  rag-picker  rather  through  idleness  than  insuffi- 
ciency he  did  not  fail  to  comprehend  that  it  enshrined 
a  mystery.  It  read  as  follows,  according  to  his  inter- 
pretation, for  writing  by  pictures  lacks  the  exactitude 
of  writing  by  letters,  and  a  pictorial  manuscript  may 
find  as  many  interpretations  as  it  does  readers  : 

"  Beneath  the  ninety-third  step  of  the  teocalli  of 
Uitzil,  the  war-god,  lies  the  casket  of  Huemac  of  the 
Strong  Hand,  the  great  and  powerful  magician.  If 
anyone  remove  the  stone  and  obtain  possession  of  the 
casket  and  its  contents  he  shall  be  as  great  as  was 

That  is  why  Total  sat  on  the  ninety-second  step  of 
the  teocalli  of  the  war-god  and  gazed  sadly  upon  the 
ninety -third  step.  It  was  nearly  four  yards  long, 
and  weighed,  perhaps,  a  ton.  His  imagination  refused 
to  soar  with  the  shadow  of  such  a  weight  upon  it. 
The  great  block  became  his  symbol  for  the  impossible. 
Wedged  between  its  upper  and  under  fellows  in  the 
flight  of  steps  it  seemed  steadfast  as  the  teocalli  itself. 
Moreover,  there  was  a  never-ceasing  traffic  of  priests 
and  penitents  from  dawn  till  dusk  and  from  sunset  to 
sunrise.  He  peered  over  the  sides  of  the  pyramid. 
The  stones  of  the  retaining  wall  were  even  more 
massive  than  those  of  the  stairway.  Surely  a  devil 
had  painted  this  script  for  his  undoing,  some  evil 
fiend  of  Mictlan,  the  underworld  of  death  and  desola- 
tion. Advice  ?  He,  a  pariah,  dare  turn  for  that 
solace  to  none,  much  less  to  the  priests  or  the  mighty, 
who  would  at  once  award  him  doom  on  the  count  of 


premeditated  profanation.  No,  he  would  seek  out  an 
adviser  from  among  the  outcast  like  himself.  But 
that  counsellor  would  be  no  less  learned  or  acute 
than  priest  or  judge,  even  if  he  were  reprobate,  for 
he  would  go  to  a  naualli — a  practitioner  of  black 

Making  his  way  to  the  huddle  of  huts  on  the  water- 
front where  he  knew  such  an  one  dwelt,  he  debated 
with  himself  as  to  how  much  he  would  tell  the  naualli. 
If  he  told  him  all,  would  not  the  sorcerer  desire  for 
himself  so  great  a  treasure  as  the  box  of  the  mightiest 
of  magicians  ?  Again,  if  he  only  told  him  so  much 
would  the  naualli  be  able  to  help  him  at  all  ?  That 
was  his  dilemma.  Coming  to  the  water-front,  he  sat 
down  upon  a  little  jetty  which  the  waves  licked  dis- 
mally and  tried  to  think.  But  he  soon  discovered 
that  he  had  arrived  at  an  impasse.  Should  he  tell 
the  magician  all  his  story  the  confidence  might  cost 
him  his  life  ;  if  he  refrained  from  doing  so  he  must 
for  ever  renounce  all  hope  of  possessing  the  casket  of 

Total  was  not  a  coward,  but  the  thought  of  death 
by  magic  made  him  feel  already  half-way  on  the  road 
to  Mictlan.  When  he  had  fortified  himself  at  a  drink- 
ing-booth  with  a  draught  of  octli,  however,  he  took 
heart  once  more  and  quickened  his  steps  to  the  hut 
of  the  naualli.  Situated  almost  on  the  water's  verge, 
it  was  built  of  rough  boards  covered  with  crudely 
painted  protective  symbols.  Not  a  sound  escaped 
from  the  hut,  and  Total,  peering  through  the  chinks 
in  the  boards,  could  discern  nothing  that  was  happen- 
ing inside  for  black  darkness.  At  last,  frantically 
courageous,  he  pulled  the  skin  curtain  ever  so  little 
to  one  side  and  begged  permission  to  enter.  All  he 
could  see  was  a  circle  of  glowing  embers  over  which 
the  shadow  of  a  hand  hovered  for  a  moment.  It 
thrust  a  half-burnt  torch  into  the  red  ashes  and  in  a 


halo  of  yellow  light,  mingled  with  moonshine,  Total 
could  see  the  naualli  sitting,  painted  and  fateful,  with 
sullen  unseeing  eyes  staring  deadly  through  a  thick 
fell  of  hair.  He  invited  Total  to  enter  by  a  grunt, 
and  the  rag-picker  drew  near. 

Spite  of  his  terror  the  rag-picker  succeeded  in 
making  plain  his  errand.  The  naualli  heard  him  in 
silence,  then  asked  for  the  manuscript.  Having 
perused  it,  he  drew  a  small  scrying-stone  from  among 
his  rags  and  gazed  long  into  its  polished  surface.  At 
length  he  spoke  : 

44  The  casket  is  indeed  underneath  the  ninety-third 
step,"  he  said.  "  It  rests  immediately  below  it.  A 
hollow  has  been  made  in  the  earth  there  to  receive  it. 
It  contains  the  magical  implements  of  the  mighty 
Huemac  of  the  Strong  Hand." 

"  But  how  may  it  be  recovered  ?  "  asked  Total, 

"  That  is  a  simple  enough  matter  to  one  who  has 
the  sight,"  replied  the  naualli.  "  But  what  do  you 
intend  to  pay  me  if  I  recover  it  for  you  ?  " 

"  I  have  thought  of  that,"  said  Total,  "  and  I  do 
not  know  how  I  can  pay  you  unless  by  sharing  the 
contents  of  the  box  with  you." 

The  naualli  bowed.  "  The  casket  of  Huemac  of 
the  Strong  Hand  should  contain  enough  for  two,  even 
when  one  of  them  is  a  magician,"  he  said.  "  Let  us 
go  to  the  pyramid  of  Huitzil." 

He  whistled  sharply  on  his  fingers  and  two  young 
men  not  quite  so  dishevelled  as  himself  insinuated 
themselves  into  the  hut.  They  were  his  pupils,  and 
less  distinguished  in  the  art  of  appearing  great  though 
filthy.  The  naualli  addressed  them  peremptorily  in 
what  was  evidently  a  caste  dialect,  and  they  quitted 
the  hut  as  unobtrusively  as  they  had  entered  it.  The 
magician  then  rose  and  followed  them,  accompanied 
by  Total.  By  this  hour  the  streets  were  deserted, 


and  when  they  reached  the  great  pyramid  all  seemed 
lifeless  below  and  above  it  save  for  the  deep  red  glow 
of  the  braziers  on  its  summit,  the  flames  of  which 
waved  like  bannerets  in  the  thin  night  zephyrs.  At 
the  foot  of  the  teocalli  they  encountered  one  of  the 
magician's  pupils  and  he  pointed  upwards  to  signify 
that  his  companion  had  climbed  to  the  summit  in 
order  to  give  notice  to  his  master  should  anyone 
descend  whilst  the  naualli  was  carrying  out  his 

The  sorcerer  and  the  rag-picker  mounted  the 
teocalli  side  by  side,  eyeing  each  other  aslant,  and 
counting  the  steps  as  they  went.  Arrived  at  the 
ninety-third  step,  they  halted,  and  the  naualli  fumbled 
in  the  darkness  at  the  side  of  the  staircase.  He  must 
have  touched  a  concealed  spring,  for  the  step  swung 
outwards  from  the  inner  side  of  the  staircase  as  if  on 
hinges.  He  groped  in  the  space  where  it  had  been 
and  drew  forth  a  curiously  wrought  box  of  some  satin- 
like  wood  inlaid  with  silver  symbols.  Then  he  swung 
the  step  back  into  its  original  position. 

Total  and  the  naualli  descended  the  steps,  the  rag- 
picker more  or  less  dazed  after  what  he  had  seen,  and 
the  magician  thinking  upon  what  he  had  achieved. 
So  far  he  was  too  elated  to  have  yet  given  any  con- 
sideration as  to  whether  he  should  strive  to  keep  the 
casket  and  its  contents  for  himself,  and  too  interested 
in  the  possibility  of  what  it  might  hold  to  actively 
covet  it.  They  hurried  back  to  the  hut  by  the  water's 
edge.  The  naualli  stirred  up  the  dying  embers  with 
a  new  torch  which,  once  alight,  he  placed  in  a  socket 
in  the  wall.  The  casket  was  bound  up  by  a  silver 
chain,  and,  this  burst  in  twain,  a  curious  medley  of 
objects  lay  before  them.  Here  was  a  magic  rattle 
which,  if  shaken  in  one  way  summoned  spiritual 
assistance,  if  agitated  in  another,  banned  all  demoniac 
forces.  There  was  a  mirror  in  whose  surface  might  be 


espied  fatal  visions  of  days  yet  uncalendered.  On 
this  side  lay  a  heavy  wand  of  power,  cunningly  inlaid  ; 
on  that  a  drumstick  with  which  to  beat  a  magical 
tattoo  such  as  would  force  multitudes  to  follow  the 
drummer.  Fetish  necklaces  of  human  fingers,  an 
almanac  in  symbols  more  ancient  than  were  known 
to  either  the  naualli  or  Total,  a  cap  of  invisibility, 
phials  of  sleepful  and  potent  draughts,  and  lastly,  a 
book  of  spells — such  were  the  contents  of  the  casket 
of  Huemac  of  the  Strong  Hand. 

By  degrees  the  naualli' s  first  rapture  of  interest  wore 
off  and  the  side  glances  which  he  directed  at  Total 
became  more  and  more  frequent.  Then  covetousness 
quickened  speech. 

"  These  things,  O  rag-picker,  constitute  the  most 
marvellous  collection  of  magical  objects  it  has  been 
my  lot  ever  to  behold,"  he  said  ungrudgingly  and  even 
enthusiastically.  "  They  can  be  of  small  advantage 
to  such  a  person  as  yourself,  who  cannot  appreciate 
or  make  proper  use  of  them.  For  what  sum  will  you 
sell  them  ?  I  will  gladly  pay  you  a  goodly  price  for 
those  treasures.  You  see,  I  do  not  attempt  to 
belittle  their  value." 

Total  stood  stock-still,  only  his  eyes  moving  and 
shifting  rapidly  from  side  to  side.  He  was  thinking — 
thinking  swiftly  and  evilly. 

"  I  will  sell  the  box  and  all  it  contains  for  three 
hundred  quills  of  gold,"  he  said,  naming  what  seemed 
to  him  far  more  than  the  naualli  was  likely  to 

The  naualli  turned,  and  groping  in  a  recess  of  the 
hut,  drew  forth  a  stained  and  aged  leather  bag,  from 
which  he  poured  a  bewildering  heap  of  quills  filled 
with  gold-dust — the  higher  currency  of  commerce  in 
Old  Mexico — and  began  to  count  out  the  number 
Total  had  asked.  As  he  bent  to  his  task,  engrossed 
in  the  counting,  he  did  not  see  the  rag-picker  lift  the 


heavy  wand  out  of  the  casket  of  Huemac.  With  a 
dexterous  turn  of  the  arm  Total  brought  down  the 
thick  heavily  mounted  baton  with  all  his  force  upon 
the  nape  of  the  nauallVs  bent  neck,  and  the  magician 
without  even  a  sigh  fell  face  forward  into  the  circle 
of  pink  and  grey  ashes. 

Total  raised  him  and  examined  him  carefully. 
But  the  fish-like  eyes  were  fixed  and  the  lines  of  the 
face  were  hard  and  grey  as  carven  stone.  Picking 
up  the  body  as  he  might  a  sack  of  refuse,  Total 
carried  it  to  the  water's  edge.  Espying  a  canoe  on 
the  beach,  he  launched  it,  and  tying  a  great  stone  to 
the  naualli's  neck  with  his  sash,  he  threw  the  body 
aboard  the  tiny  craft.  Paddling  out  for  some  distance, 
he  backed  water  and  dropped  the  magician's  body 
over  the  side.  Then  he  returned  to  the  shore  and 
entered  the  hut.  He  would  be  a  magician. 

The  naualli  was  dead ;  he,  Total,  would  take  his 
place.  With  the  assistance  of  the  casket  of  Huemac 
he  would  be  the  greatest  worker  of  magic  in  Mexico. 
First  he  gloated  over  the  heap  of  gold  quills  ;  then  he 
turned  to  the  box  and  handled  the  implements  it 
contained  one  by  one.  But  the  age-old  symbols  in 
the  book  of  spells  revealed  no  secret  to  him,  the 
calendar  was  beyond  him,  the  rattle  he  might  shake 
continuously  without  succeeding  in  summoning  a 
single  spirit,  and  the  mirror  displayed  no  prophetic 
visions  to  his  eyes.  Slowly  it  came  to  him  that  to  be 
able  to  use  these  things  successfully  one  must  be  a 
master  in  magic. 

But  he  would  learn.  By  the  light  of  the  still 
flickering  torch  he  addressed  himself  fiercely  to  the 
task.  All  night  he  pondered  upon  the  book  of  spells, 
but  without  unriddling  a  single  symbol,  and  the  dawn, 
peeping  through  the  chinks  of  the  windowless  hut, 
found  him  still  poring  over  the  painted  agave  leaves 
in  the  patient  determination  of  ignorance.  And  so 


sleep  came  to  him.  He  did  not  know  that  magical 
secrets  yield  not  themselves  to  the  self-instructed,  but 
must  be  taught. 

He  slept  long,  and  when  he  awoke  it  was  late  after- 
noon. With  the  dogged  persistence  of  superstition  he 
took  up  the  task  once  more.  Night  fell.  No  one  dis- 
turbed him.  The  nauallVs  pupils  evidently  had  orders 
not  to  approach  the  hut  unless  expressly  summoned. 
But  he  was  not  alone  after  the  torch  had  flickered 
out.  At  first  Total  only  heard  the  faintest  whisper- 
ings and  rustlings.  It  was  as  if  a  number  of  very 
quiet  children  were  in  the  hut  playing  in  whispers. 
Then  a  voice  named  someone  more  loudly.  It  might 
be  one  of  his  pupils  outside  whispering  to  the  magician 
through  the  chinks  of  the  boards.  Then  the  name 
was  spoken  loudly,  passionately,  into  Total's  very 
ear.  He  leapt  from  where  he  sat  with  a  cry,  and  stood 
trembling  and  quivering  in  horrible,  irrational  fear. 
Now  he  realized  that  the  familiars  of  the  naualli 
were  with  him,  and  that  if  he  was  to  master  the  great 
art  he  must  accustom  himself  to  their  visits.  Still 
trembling,  he  resumed  his  squatting  attitude  and  his 
unavailing  study  of  the  book  of  spells.  The  dis- 
appearance of  the  lines  of  light  from  the  chinks  in 
the  wall  of  the  hut  showed  that  night  had  fallen 
again.  The  horrid  sounds  around  him  multiplied. 
The  flap  and  flitter  of  bats'  wings  sounded  above  his 
head — or  was  it  the  sound  of  bats'  wings  ?  Something 
alit  and  crouched  for  an  instant  upon  his  head.  The 
black  air  felt  as  if  it  swarmed.  Abominations  shoaled 
about  him.  Once  the  leathern  curtain  before  the 
door  was  agitated  and  a  huge  body  bounded  aimlessly 
round  the  hut  and  brushed  behind  him.  Later  the 
curtain  sagged  and  was  partly  withdrawn  and  two 
eyes  looked  in  upon  him  for  a  moment  with  glowing 
menace.  At  last  a  hand  stroked  his  face,  and  a  cheek, 
hard  and  cold  as  stone,  was  laid  lovingly  against  his. 


With  a  sob  of  terror  he  stumbled  into  the  night, 
never  halting  until  he  reached  a  little  shrine  of  the 
Emerald  Lady,  spouse  of  the  Water-god,  the  goddess 
of  the  fishers  and  fowlers  of  the  waterside.  Close  to 
this  he  crouched,  nor  did  he  quit  its  vicinity  till 

But  with  the  first  glimmer  of  day  his  ambitions 
returned  to  him.  Such  must  be  the  experience  of  all 
magicians,  he  told  himself,  and  he  retraced  his  steps 
to  the  hut.  Entering,  he  found  all  as  before.  The 
box  of  Huemac  still  lay  where  he  had  left  it,  half 
covered  by  the  brilliant  panoramic  pages  of  the  book 
of  spells,  and  once  more  he  set  himself  to  its  elucida- 
tion. All  day  he  laboured  over  the  inexorable  symbols 
with  no  more  success  than  before.  The  light  waned 
and  evening  approached.  When  night  fell  he  remem- 
bered that  he  had  no  fire.  But  he  felt  bolder.  He 
was  in  process  of  becoming  a  naualli  and  the  things 
of  darkness  must  not  prevail  against  him.  A  soft 
yet  ponderous  body  leapt  upon  his  back.  Something 
seized  one  of  his  hands.  A  smooth  warm  tongue 
brushed  across  his  face.  He  could  stand  the  sheer 
abomination  of  his  environment  no  longer,  and 
utterly  broken  down,  he  rushed  from  the  hut  into 
the  moonlight,  the  casket  of  Huemac  under  his  arm. 

In  a  frenzy  of  hate  against  the  agency  which  had 
caused  his  suffering,  he  jumped  into  a  canoe  and 
paddled  swiftly  out  into  the  lake.  In  what  direction 
he  was  going  he  knew  not.  But  at  a  certain  spot  he 
stopped,  and  with  a  malediction  hurled  the  casket  of 
Huemac  into  the  water.  It  floated  lightly  upon  the 
surface.  Apparently  the  silver  which  bound  it  was 
not  sufficiently  weighty  to  sink  it.  As  it  swam 
wickedly  on  the  moonlit  surface  of  the  lake  the  water 
was  suddenly  agitated  from  below  and  a  black  hand 
with  shrivelled,  tenuous  fingers  grasped  avidly  at  the 
casket  and  seized  it.  Too  paralysed  at  first  to  lift 


the  paddles,  Total  watched  the  seizing  hand  in  a 
transport  of  horror.  As  if  pulling  itself  up  by  pur- 
chase upon  the  box,  the  body  of  the  naualli  slowly 
arose  from  the  depths.  First  appeared  the  dishevelled 
hair,  then  the  dead  fish-like  eyes,  fixed  and  unseeing, 
then  the  mouth,  hard  and  grim.  With  a  shriek  of 
anguish  which  rang  far  across  the  water  Total  seized 
the  paddles  and  headed  for  the  shore  with  a  haste 
that  made  for  little  speed.  He  glanced  over  his 
shoulder.  The  naualli  was  swimming  after  him.  For 
five  tense  minutes  he  paddled,  glancing  ever  behind 
as  he  did  so.  But  the  sorcerer  followed  in  his  very 
wake,  the  dark  features  showing  against  the  line  of 
foam  with  fearful  and  threatening  distinctness.  Ere 
he  gained  the  beach  Total  leaped  out  into  the  shallows 
and  floundered  ashore.  The  naualli  was  not  far 
behind  him. 

Total's  one  hope  was  protection  from  his  patron 
god,  Uitzil.  If  magic  had  failed  him,  the  strength  of 
the  war-god  might  still  succour  him.  Through  the 
quiet  streets  and  alleys  he  sped  at  the  breakneck 
pace  of  a  fear  that  was  now  delirious.  And  ever  he 
heard  the  patter  of  speedful  feet  in  his  rear.  It  was 
dark  in  the  lanes  among  the  huddle  of  huts  and 
houses  and  he  could  not  now  glimpse  his  pursuer. 
At  length  he  came  to  the  foot  of  the  great  teocalli  of 
Uitzil.  He  sprang  upon  its  stairway  with  limbs 
which  gave  beneath  him  and  a  bursting  heart.  He 
had  gained  the  twentieth  step  when,  looking  back- 
wards and  downwards,  he  saw  the  naualli  leaping 
towards  him.  With  a  gasp  he  spurred  his  jaded  body 
to  the  ascent.  On,  on  he  struggled  and  scrambled, 
but  the  naualli  pressed  him  hard.  At  last,  just  as  he 
reached  the  ninety-third  step,  he  felt  hateful  fingers 
grasp  at  his  shoulders  and  seize  his  throat.  Then 
with  fiendish  might  he  was  lifted  off  his  feet  and 
hurled  down  the  abyss-like  slope  of  the  teocalli. 


The  naualli  descended  and  walked  over  the  dead 
body  of  Total  the  rag-picker  which  lay  at  the  base  of 
the  pyramid.  He  sneered  down  upon  the  white 
wicked  features.  Then  he  took  his  way  to  the  water- 
side, and  re-entering  his  hut,  squatted  in  front  of  the 
grey  ashes,  the  casket  of  Huemac  in  his  hands. 

MEXICAN  MAGIC  (continued) 

THE  art  of  divination  was  widely  practised  by 
the  Mexican  priesthood.  In  ancient  or  pre- 
Columbian  Mexico  there  was  a  college  of 
augurs,  corresponding  in  purpose  to  the  Auspices  of 
ancient  Rome,  the  alumni  of  which  occupied  them- 
selves with  observing  the  flight  and  listening  to  the 
songs  of  birds,  from  which  they  drew  their  conclu- 
sions and  interpreted  the  speech  of  all  winged  crea- 
tures. In  Mexico  the  calmecac,  or  training  college  of 
the  priests,  had  a  department  where  divination  was 
taught  in  all  its  phases,  and  that  the  occupation  was 
no  mere  sinecure  will  appear  later.  Among  the  less 
advanced  communities  the  services  of  the  diviner  or 
seer  were  much  in  request,  and  the  forecasting  of  the 
future  became,  sooner  or  later,  the  chief  concern  of 
the  higher  classes  of  priests. 

The  methods  adopted  by  the  priests  in  the  practice 
of  divination  scarcely  differed  with  locality,  but  many 
various  expedients  were  made  use  of  to  attain  the 
same  end.  Thus,  some  practised  oracular  methods 
in  much  the  same  way  as  did  the  priesthood  in 
ancient  Egypt  and  Greece.  The  idols  became  the 
direct  medium  by  which  Divine  wishes  were  dis- 
closed or  the  future  made  clear.  Necromancy  was 
also  extensively  practised,  the  priests  pretending  to 
raise  the  dead,  whose  instructions  they  communicated 
to  those  who  had  consulted  them.  Still  other  classes 




predicted  by  means  of  leaves  of  tobacco,  or  the 
grains  or  juice  of  coca,  the  shapes  of  grains  of  maize, 
taken  at  random,  the  casting  of  beans,  the  appearance 
of  animal  excrement,  the  forms  assumed  by  the  smoke 
rising  from  burning  victims,  the  entrails  and  vis- 
cera of  animals,  the  course  taken  by  spiders,  visions 
seen  in  dreams,  the  flight  of  birds,  and  the  direction 
in  which  fruits  might  fall.  The  professors  of  these 
several  methods  were  distinguished  by  different  ranks 
and  titles,  and  their  training  was  a  long  and  arduous 
one,  and  undertaken  in  no  mere  spirit  of  flippancy. 

It  has  been  already  mentioned  that  the  Mexican 
priesthood,  or  that  class  of  it  devoted  to  augury, 
made  a  practice  of  observing  the  flight  of  various  birds 
and  of  listening  to  their  songs.  This  observation  of 
birds  for  the  purpose  of  augury  was  common  to  other 
American  tribes.  The  bird,  with  its  rapid  motion 
and  incomprehensible  power  of  flight,  appeared  to 
the  savage  as  a  being  of  a  higher  order  than  himself, 
and  its  song — the  only  hint  of  music  with  which  he 
was  familiar — as  something  bordering  upon  the 
supernatural,  the  ability  to  understand  which  he  had 
once  possessed  but  had  lost  through  the  potency  of 
some  evil  and  unknown  spell.  Some  great  sorcerer 
or  medicine-man  alone  might  break  this  spell,  and 
this  the  shamans  of  the  tribe  sought  assiduously  to 
achieve,  by  means  of  close  attention  to  the  habits  of 
birds,  their  motions  and  flights,  and  especially  to 
their  song.  "  The  natives  of  Brazil  regarded  one  bird 
in  especial  as  of  good  augury,"  says  Coreal,  an  early 
eighteenth-century  traveller,  in  his  "  Voiages  aux 
Indes  Occidentals. "  He  does  not  state  to  what  bird 
he  alludes,  but  proceeds  to  say  that  its  mournful 
chant  is  heard  by  night  rather  than  by  day.  The 
savages  say  it  is  sent  by  their  deceased  friends  to 
bring  them  news  from  the  other  world  and  to  en- 
courage them  against  their  enemies.  Here,  it  would 


seem,  we  have  an  example  of  bird-augury  combined 
with  divination  by  necromancy,  and  that  the  same 
held  good  in  Mexico  we  know.  Coreal  probably 
alluded  to  the  goat-sucker  bird  which,  with  the 
screaming  vulture,  some  South  American  tribes — the 
Guaycurus  of  Paraguay,  for  example — suppose  to  act 
as  messengers  from  the  dead  to  their  priests,  between 
whom  and  the  deceased  persons  of  the  tribe  there  is 
thought  to  be  frequent  communication. 

A  typical  example  of  augury  by  bird-habit  has 
come  down  to  us  in  the  account  of  the  manner  in 
which  the  Nahua  of  Mexico  fixed  upon  the  spot  for 
the  foundation  of  that  city.  Halting  after  years  of 
travel  at  the  Lake  of  Tezcuco,  they  observed  perched 
on  the  stem  of  a  cactus  a  great  eagle  with  wings  out- 
spread, holding  in  its  talons  a  writhing  serpent. 
Their  augurs  interpreted  this  as  a  good  omen,  as  it 
had  been  previously  announced  by  an  oracle,  and  on 
the  spot  drove  the  first  piles  upon  which  was  after- 
wards built  the  city  of  Mexico-Tenochtitlan.  The 
legend  of  its  foundation  is  still  commemorated  in  the 
arms  of  the  modern  Republic  of  Mexico,  and  on  its 
coinage  and  postal  stamps. 

The  business  of  divination  by  means  of  dreams 
and  visions,  it  is  hardly  necessary  to  say,  was  almost 
completely  in  the  hands  of  the  priestly  class.  In 
Mexico  they  were  known  as  teopixqui  or  teotecuhtli, 
"  masters  of  divine  things,"  in  Maya  speech, 
cocome,  "  the  listeners."  Nearly  all  messages  sup- 
posed to  be  received  from  the  supernatural  came 
through  the  medium  of  dreams  or  visions,  and  those 
who  possessed  ability  to  read  or  interpret  the  dream 
were  usually  placed  in  a  class  by  themselves.  The 
priests  held  it  as  an  article  of  belief  that  the  glimpse 
into  futurity,  with  which  visions  or  dreams  provided 
them,  was  to  be  gained  only  by  extreme  privation 
and  by  purifying  the  vision  through  hunger  or  the 


use  of  drugs.  To  induce  the  ecstatic  condition  the 
Indians  made  use  of  many  different  mediums,  such 
as  want  of  sleep,  seclusion,  the  pertinacious  fixing  of 
the  mind  upon  one  subject,  the  swallowing  or  inhala- 
tion of  cerebral  intoxicants  such  as  tobacco,  the 
maguey,  coca,  ololiuchqui,  the  peyotl. 

From  dreams  during  the  puberty-fast  a  person's 
entire  future  was  usually  divined  by  the  priests,  his 
spiritual  affinities  fixed,  and  his  life's  course  mapped 
out.  The  elaborate  ceremonies  known  as  "  dances  " 
were  usually  adumbrated  to  the  priests  through 
dreams,  and  the  actual  performance  was  made  to 
follow  carefully  in  detail  the  directions  supposed  to 
have  been  received  in  the  dream  or  vision.  Many 
shrines  and  sacred  places  were  also  supposed  to  have 
been  indicated  to  certain  persons  in  dreams,  and  their 
contents  presented  to  those  persons  by  supernatural 
beings  whilst  they  were  in  the  visionary  state.  The 
periods  for  the  performance  of  rites  connected  with 
a  shrine,  as  well  as  other  devotional  observances, 
often  depended  on  an  intimation  received  in  a  dream. 
14  Visions  "  were  also  induced  by  winding  the  skin 
of  a  freshly  killed  animal  around  the  neck  until  the 
pressure  on  the  veins  caused  unconsciousness,  and 
dreams  resulted,  possibly  from  an  overflow  of  blood 
to  the  head.  Some  tribes  believed  that  the  vision 
came  to  the  prophet  or  seer  as  a  picture,  or  that  acts 
were  performed  before  him  as  in  a  play,  whilst  others 
held  that  the  soul  travelled  through  space  and  was 
able  to  see  from  afar  those  places  and  events  of  which 
it  desired  to  have  knowledge. 

A  legend  which  reveals  the  manner  in  which  the 
Mexicans  augured  occurrences  from  dreams  is  that 
of  the  Princess  Papantzin,  the  sister  of  Montezuma  II., 
who  returned  from  her  tomb  to  prophesy  to  her  royal 
brother  concerning  his  doom  and  the  fall  of  his  empire 
at  the  hands  of  the  Spaniards.  On  taking  up  the 


reins  of  government,  Montezuma  had  married  this 
lady  to  one  of  his  most  illustrious  servants,  the 
governor  of  Tlatelulco,  and  after  his  death  it  would 
appear  that  she  continued  to  exercise  her  husband's 
almost  vice-regal  functions  and  to  reside  in  his 
palace.  In  course  of  time  she  died,  and  her  obsequies 
were  attended  by  the  emperor  in  person,  accom- 
panied by  the  greatest  personages  of  his  court  and 
kingdom.  The  body  was  interred  in  a  subterranean 
vault  of  his  own  palace,  in  close  proximity  to  the 
royal  baths,  which  stood  in  a  sequestered  part  of  the 
extensive  grounds  surrounding  the  royal  residence. 
The  entrance  to  the  vault  was  secured  by  a  stone 
slab  of  moderate  weight,  and  when  the  numerous 
ceremonies  prescribed  for  the  interment  of  a  royal 
personage  had  been  completed  the  emperor  and  his 
suite  retired.  At  daylight  next  morning  one  of  the 
royal  children,  a  little  girl  of  some  six  years  of  age, 
having  gone  into  the  garden  to  seek  her  governess, 
espied  the  Princess  Papan  standing  near  the  baths. 
The  princess,  who  was  her  aunt,  called  to  her,  and 
requested  her  to  bring  her  governess  to  her.  The 
child  did  as  she  was  bid,  but  her  governess,  thinking 
that  imagination  had  played  her  a  trick,  paid  little 
attention  to  what  she  said.  As  the  child  persisted  in 
her  statement,  the  governess  at  last  followed  her  into 
the  garden,  where  she  saw  Papan  sitting  on  one  of 
the  steps  of  the  baths.  The  sight  of  the  supposed 
dead  princess  filled  the  woman  with  such  terror  that 
she  fell  down  in  a  swoon.  The  child  then  went  to  her 
mother's  apartment  and  detailed  to  her  what  had 
happened.  She  at  once  proceeded  to  the  baths  with 
two  of  her  attendants,  and  at  sight  of  Papan  was 
also  seized  with  affright.  But  the  princess  reassured 
her,  and  asked  to  be  allowed  to  accompany  her  to 
her  apartments,  and  that  the  entire  affair  should  for 
the  present  be  kept  absolutely  secret.  Later  in  the 


day  she  sent  for  Ticotzicatzin,  her  major-domo,  and 
requested  him  to  inform  the  emperor  that  she  desired 
to  speak  with  him  immediately  on  matters  of  the 
greatest  importance.  The  man,  terrified,  begged  to 
be  excused  from  the  mission,  and  Papan  then  gave 
orders  that  her  uncle  Nezahualpilli,  King  of  Tezcuco, 
should  be  communicated  with.  That  monarch,  on 
receiving  her  request  that  he  should  come  to  her, 
hastened  to  the  palace.  The  princess  begged  him  to 
see  the  emperor  without  loss  of  time  and  to  entreat 
him  to  come  to  her  at  once.  Montezuma  heard  his 
story  with  surprise  mingled  with  doubt.  Hastening 
to  his  sister,  he  cried  as  he  approached  her  :  "  Is  it 
indeed  you,  my  sister,  or  some  evil  demon  who  has 
taken  your  likeness  ? "  "  It  is  I  indeed,  your 
Majesty,"  she  replied.  Montezuma  and  the  exalted 
personages  who  accompanied  him  then  seated  them- 
selves, and  a  hush  of  expectation  fell  upon  all  as  they 
were  addressed  by  the  princess  in  the  following  words  : 

"  Listen  attentively  to  what  I  am  about  to  relate 
to  you.  You  have  seen  me  dead,  buried,  and  now 
behold  me  alive  again.  By  the  authority  of  our  an- 
cestors, my  brother,  I  am  returned  from  the  dwellings 
of  the  dead  to  prophesy  to  you  certain  things  of 
prime  importance. 

"  At  the  moment  after  death  I  found  myself  in  a 
spacious  valley,  which  appeared  to  have  neither 
commencement  nor  end,  and  was  surrounded  by 
lofty  mountains.  Near  the  middle  I  came  upon  a 
road  with  many  branching  paths.  By  the  side  of 
the  valley  there  flowed  a  river  of  considerable  size, 
the  waters  of  which  ran  with  a  loud  noise.  By  the 
borders  of  this  I  saw  a  young  man  clothed  in  a  long 
robe,  fastened  with  a  diamond,  and  shining  like  the 
sun,  his  visage  bright  as  a  star.  On  his  forehead  was 
a  sign  in  the  figure  of  a  cross.  He  had  wings,  the 
feathers  of  which  gave  forth  the  most  wonderful  and 


glowing  reflections  and  colours.  His  eyes  were  as 
emeralds,  and  his  glance  was  modest.  He  was  fair, 
of  beautiful  aspect  and  imposing  presence.  He  took 
me  by  the  hand  and  said  :  '  Come  hither.  It  is  not 
yet  time  for  you  to  cross  the  river.  You  possess  the 
love  of  God,  which  is  greater  than  you  know  or  can 
comprehend.'  He  then  conducted  me  through  the 
valley,  where  I  espied  many  heads  and  bones  of  dead 
men.  I  then  beheld  a  number  of  black  folk,  horned, 
and  with  the  feet  of  deer.  They  were  engaged  in 
building  a  house,  which  was  nearly  completed.  Turn- 
ing toward  the  east  for  a  space,  I  beheld  on  the  waters 
of  the  river  a  vast  number  of  ships  manned  by  a 
great  host  of  men  dressed  differently  from  ourselves. 
Their  eyes  were  of  a  clear  grey,  their  complexions 
ruddy,  they  carried  banners  and  ensigns  in  their 
hands,  and  wore  helmets  on  their  heads.  They  called 
themselves  '  Sons  of  the  Sun.'  The  youth  who  con- 
ducted me  and  caused  me  to  see  all  these  things  said 
that  it  was  not  yet  the  will  of  the  gods  that  I  should 
cross  the  river,  but  that  I  was  to  be  reserved  to 
behold  the  future  with  my  own  eyes  and  to  enjoy  the 
benefits  of  the  faith  which  these  strangers  brought 
with  them  ;  that  the  bones  I  beheld  on  the  plain 
were  those  of  my  countrymen  who  had  died  in  igno- 
rance of  that  faith,  and  had  subsequently  suffered 
great  torments  ;  that  the  house  being  builded  by  the 
black  folk  was  an  edifice  prepared  for  those  who 
would  fall  in  battle  with  the  seafaring  strangers  whom 
I  had  seen  ;  and  that  I  was  destined  to  return  to  my 
compatriots  to  tell  them  of  the  'true  faith  and  to 
announce  to  them  what  I  had  seen  that  they  might 
profit  thereby." 

Montezuma  hearkened  to  these  matters  in  silence 
and  felt  greatly  troubled.  He  left  his  sister's  presence 
without  a  word,  and,  regaining  his  own  apartments, 
plunged  into  melancholy  thoughts. 


Papantzin's  resurrection  is  one  of  the  best  authen- 
ticated incidents  in  Mexican  history,  and  it  is  a  curious 
fact  that  on  the  arrival  of  the  Spanish  Conquistadores 
one  of  the  first  persons  to  embrace  Christianity  and 
receive  baptism  at  their  hands  was  the  Princess 

Amulets  and  charms  were  largely  used  among  the 
Mexicans  and  Maya.  As  in  other  parts  of  America, 
the  amulet  was  regarded  in  Mexico  as  a  personal 
fetish.  The  wholesale  manner  in  which  everything 
pertaining  to  native  worship  or  superstition  was 
swept  away  by  the  Spanish  Conquistadores  renders 
a  thorough  knowledge  of  personal  fetishism  among 
the  Nahua  peoples  impossible,  but  scanty  notices  in 
the  writings  of  authors  who  lived  in  the  generation 
immediately  subsequent  to  the  Conquest  throw  some 
light  upon  the  description  of  charms  and  talismans 
in  use  among  the  Aztecs  and  kindred  peoples.  They 
appear  to  have  been  principally  manufactured  and 
sold  by  the  priests  of  the  various  deities,  in  much  the 
same  manner  as  the  medicine-men  of  the  North 
American  tribes  make  and  sell  such  articles.  The  use 
of  charms  was  chiefly  notable  in  connection  with  the 
funerary  customs  of  the  Aztecs,  as  will  be  described 
later.  In  the  Dresden  Codex  the  pinturas  represent 
the  deceased  on  the  road  to  Mictlan  as  wearing  a 
wooden  collar,  probably  an  amulet,  to  show  that  he 
belongs  to  one  or  other  of  the  Nahua  deities.  For 
the  same  purpose,  probably,  he  wears  a  plume  on  his 

The  principal  objects  which  have  either  come  down 
to  us  or  are  known  to  have  served  the  purpose  of 
personal  oi\  household  talismans  to  the  Nahua  peoples 
are : 

Death-masks. — These  were  probably  the  skulls  of 
ancestors  and  were  kept  in  the  houses  of  their  descend- 
ants. Some  primitive  peoples  of  Central  America 


still  keep  the  shrunken  heads  of  their  relatives.  They 
consist  of  two  classes  :  one  in  which  the  skull  of  the 
deceased  person  has  been  inlaid  with  mosaic,  and  the 
other  in  which  a  conventional  image  of  the  deceased 
has  been  manufactured  by  inlaying  mosaic  upon  jade. 
These  death-masks  are  not  to  be  confounded  with 
the  masks  spoken  of  by  many  writers  on  Nahua 
custom  as  being  used  by  the  priests  in  religious  cere- 
monial, or  with  those  placed  on  the  faces  of  the  dead 
to  ward  off  evil  spirits.  The  mosaic  work  of  which 
they  are  composed  is  often  of  a  very  great  beauty, 
and  excellent  examples  of  it  are  to  be  seen  in  the 
American  Room  at  the  British  Museum.  Specimens 
of  such  work  are  exceedingly  rare,  and  are  chiefly 
confined  to  those  objects  sent  to  Europe  at  a  period 
immediately  subsequent  to  the  Conquest.  Numerous 
small  masks  and  heads  which  served  as  amulets  have 
been  discovered  on  the  site  of  Mitla,  the  city  of 
Mictlan,  the  god  of  the  dead.  Most  of  them  are  of 
terracotta  and  of  good  workmanship. 

The  tepitoton,  or  diminutive  deities. — These  were 
small  figures  of  the  Lares  and  Penates  type,  but  not, 
as  has  been  thought,  of  the  class  of  the  Egyptian 
ushabtiu,  or  servant  figurines.  They  were  probably 
relics  of  a  shamanistic  form  of  worship,  and  nearer 
to  the  ancestor-idol  type  than  the  little  fire-and-food 
gods  of  the  Romans,  though  they  possibly  partook 
of  the  characteristics  of  both.  At  the  close  of  the 
great  sun-cycle  of  fifty-two  years,  when  the  Nahua 
thought  the  universe  was  in  danger  of  perishing,  they 
broke  those  small  figures  in  despair,  believing  they 
could  no  more  seek  aid  from  them. 

Travellers'  staves. — These  staves,  decorated  with 
feathers,  were  carried  by  all  merchants  whilst  on  a 
journey,  and  show  that  they  were  under  the  protec- 
tion of  Quetzalcoatl,  the  culture-god  of  Mexico,  or 
the  great  traveller.  Sahagun  gives  an  interesting 


account  of  the  worship  of  these  stones  by  the  Mexican 
itinerant  merchants.  On  coming  to  their  evening 
halting-place  they  tied  their  staves  in  a  bundle  and 
sprinkled  them  with  blood  taken  from  their  ears, 
tongues,  and  arms.  Incense  was  brought  and  burned 
before  them,  and  food,  flowers,  and  tobacco  were 
offered  to  them.  Although  the  name  of  the  staff, 
coatl,  means  "  serpent,"  it  had,  so  far  as  its  nomen- 
clature was  concerned,  no  connection  with  the  god  ; 
and,  indeed,  when  the  staves  were  gathered  together 
in  a  bundle  the  name  they  collectively  bore  was 
Yacatecutli,  the  name  of  the  patron  of  merchants  or 
pedlars.  Still,  the  staff  was  regarded  as  the  invention 
of  Quetzalcoatl,  the  culture-hero,  and  those  using  it 
practically  placed  themselves  under  his  protection. 

Amulets  symbolic  of  the  gods. — These  were 
numerous,  but  few  are  recorded.  Chalchihuitlicue, 
the  goddess  of  water,  was  worshipped  under  the  like- 
ness of  a  frog,  carved  from  a  single  emerald  or  piece 
of  jade,  or  sometimes  in  human  form,  but  holding  in 
her  hand  a  lily-leaf  ornamented  with  frogs.  In  the 
Maya  codices  it  appears  as  a  symbol  of  water  and 
rain.  Images  of  it,  cut  from  stone  or  made  from  clay, 
have  been  frequently  discovered.  They  were  kept 
by  the  post-Conquest  Indians  as  talismans.  The 
symbol  or  crest  of  Uitzilopochtli,  the  Aztec  war-god, 
was,  as  is  implied  by  his  name,  a  humming-bird. 
This  crest,  the  huitziton,  was  carried  before  his  priests 
in  battle,  and  it  is  probable  that  they  and  illustrious 
members  of  the  warrior  class  wore  the  symbol  as  a 
talisman  or  decoration. 

Flint  talismans. — As  elsewhere,  the  thunderbolts 
thrown  by  the  gods  were  supposed  to  be  flint  stones, 
and  these  were  cherished  as  amulets  of  much  virtue 
and  as  symbols  of  the  fecundating  rains.  The  Nava- 
hoes  of  New  Mexico  still  use  such  stones  as  a  charm 
for  rain,  and  believe  they  fall  from  the  clouds  when 


it  thunders.  The  Chotas  of  Mexico  continued  until 
comparatively  recent  times  the  worship  of  their 
trinity — the  Dawn,  the  Stone,  and  the  Serpent. 

Amulets  depicted  in  the  Mexican  and  Mayapinturas, 
or  native  MSS.,  give  representations  of  what  are 
obviously  ornaments  and  personal  decorations  of  the 
nature  of  amulets  in  great  profusion,  but,  owing  to 
the  highly  conventional  drawing  displayed  in  the 
Mexican  pinturas,  it  is  almost  impossible  to  determine 
their  exact  nature.  The  comparative  clearness  of 
outline  in  the  Maya  pinturas  renders  it  much  easier 
to  speculate  upon  the  nature  of  the  objects  repre- 
sented therein.  But  it  is  only  by  induction  that  the 
character  of  these  objects  can  be  arrived  at,  the 
intolerance  to  which  all  native  American  objets  d'art 
were  subjected  having  long  since  destroyed  their  very 
names.  It  will  be  well,  then,  to  glance  at  the  Maya 
MSS.  while  we  attempt  to  discover  what  were  the 
amulets  worn  by  the  figures  depicted  in  them.  We 
find  that  these  objects  are  usually  worn  by  figures 
representing  gods,  but  it  is  well  known  that  the  symbol 
or  ornament  of  the  god  usually  becomes  the  symbol 
or  ornament  of  his  special  worshippers — the  people  of 
whom  he  is  the  tutelary  deity.  In  Egypt  the  ankh 
(the  cruciform  symbol  of  life  carried  by  all  the  gods) 
was  worn  very  generally,  as  was  the  uzat  (the  sym- 
bolic eye  of  Horus,  which  protected  the  wearer  from 
the  evil  eye  and  against  snake-bite),  and  the  thet,  the 
girdle-buckle  of  Isis.  In  early  Scandinavia  the  raven- 
wings  of  Odin  adorned  the  helmet  of  the  warrior ; 
and,  not  to  multiply  instances,  which  are  numerous, 
we  have  already  seen  that  the  Aztecs  wore  amulets 
depicting  the  frog-shaped  rain-goddess  Chalchihuit- 
licue.  Hence  there  is  no  reason  to  suppose  that  the 
special  worshippers  of  other  Nahua  deities  did  not 
wear  amulets  depicting  either  their  tutelary  deity  or 
some  ornament  supposed  to  have  been  worn  by  him- 


self,  and  perhaps  representing  one  of  his  attributes 
like  the  staff  of  Quetzalcoatl,  or  the  humming-bird  of 
Uitzilopochtli.  An  examination  of  the  three  Maya 
MSS.  which  we  possess — those  of  Dresden,  Madrid, 
and  Paris — shows  that  most  of  the  deities  therein 
represented  are  accompanied  by  certain  distinct  and 
well-marked  symbols  which,  it  would  seem,  frequently 
decorate  the  figures  of  priests  and  people  in  the  same 
MSS.  As  each  god  in  the  Maya  MSS.  is  represented 
with  his  monthly  sign  it  is  not  unlikely  that  his 
devotees  would  have  worn  these  much  in  the  same 
manner  as  persons  in  Europe  wear  amulet-rings  in 
which  are  enclosed  stones  typifying  the  "  virtues  "  of 
the  several  months. 

The  principal  amulets  worn  by  the  chief  Aztec 
gods  occasionally  resemble  those  of  the  Maya  deities. 
Uitzilopochtli  wears  on  his  breast  a  white  ring  made 
from  a  mussel  shell,  which  is  described  as  "  his 
breast-mirror,"  that  is  his  scrying-glass,  while,  as  we 
have  seen,  Tezcatlipoca  wears  a  similar  amulet,  from 
which,  indeed,  he  takes  his  name,  and  sometimes  a 
white  ring,  resembling  a  large  round  eye,  typical 
probably  of  his  gift  of  prophetic  vision.  At  the  waist 
he  sometimes  has  an  ornament  resembling  the  Maya 
Kin  sign  of  the  five  points  of  the  compass  and  painted 

Quetzalcoatl  wears  many  amulets,  a  nape-appen- 
dage of  grouse  or  crow  feathers,  the  significance  of 
which  may  be  much  the  same  as  those  feather-bunches 
worn  by  some  of  the  North  American  Indians  for 
protective  purposes.  He  has  white  ear-rings  of  hook- 
like  shape,  a  necklace  of  spirally  voluted  snail  shells, 
and  on  the  breast  a  large  ornament  sliced  from  a 
shell,  the  symbol  of  life.  These  ornaments  are  all  of 
Maya  origin  and  such  have  been  taken  from  Maya 
graves,  where  they  had  been  placed  as  symbols  of 
resurrection.  He  is  frequently  depicted  as  wearing 


a  necklace  of  jaguar's  teeth,  the  sign  of  the  Maya 
balam  or  tiger-priesthood,  and  the  tiger-skin  hat  of 
the  same  caste. 

Cinteotl,  the  young  maize-god,  wears  a  jadeite 
stone  to  symbolize  the  green  shoots  of  the  young  plant 
over  which  he  presides.  The  goddess  Xochiquetzal 
is  seen  in  some  MSS.  wearing  the  wristlets  or  cuffs 
made  of  opossum  skin  which  were  put  on  the  arms 
of  women  in  labour  to  give  them  the  courage  of  that 
animal  in  bringing  forth.  Tlaloc,  the  rain-god,  wears 
the  square  ear-plug  typical  of  the  four  quarters  of  the 
world,  and  bears  a  serpentine  wand  symbolic  of  water. 

The  magical  amulets  and  spells  employed  at  death 
are  described  by  Clavigero,  who  alludes  to  the  spells 
regarded  as  essential  to  the  welfare  of  the  spirit  in 
the  Otherworld  as  follows  : 

"  However  superstitious  the  Mexicans  were  in 
other  matters,  in  the  rites  which  they  observed  at 
funerals  they  exceeded  themselves.  As  soon  as  any 
person  died,  certain  masters  of  funeral  services  were 
called  who  were  generally  men  advanced  in  years. 
They  cut  a  number  of  pieces  of  paper  with  which  they 
dressed  the  dead  body,  and  took  a  glass  of  water 
with  which  they  sprinkled  the  head,  saying  that  that 
was  the  water  used  in  the  time  of  their  life.  They 
then  dressed  it  in  a  habit  suitable  to  the  rank,  the 
wealth,  and  the  circumstances  attending  the  death 
of  the  party.  If  the  deceased  had  been  a  warrior,  they 
clothed  him  in  the  habit  of  Huitzilopochtli ;  if  a 
merchant,  in  that  of  Jacatectli ;  if  an  artist,  in  that 
of  the  protecting  god  of  his  art  or  trade  ;  one  who 
had  been  drowned  was  dressed  in  the  habit  of  Tlaloc  ; 
one  who  had  been  executed  for  adultery  in  that  of 
Tlazolteotl ;  and  a  drunkard  in  the  habit  of  Tezcat- 
zoncatl,  god  of  wine.  In  short,  as  Gomara  has  well 
observed,  they  wore  more  garments  after  they  were 
dead  than  while  they  were  living. 


"  With  the  habit  they  gave  the  dead  a  jug  of  water, 
which  was  to  serve  on  the  journey  to  the  other  world, 
and  also  at  successive  different  times  different  pieces 
of  paper,  mentioning  the  use  of  each.  On  consigning 
the  first  piece  to  the  dead  they  said  :  '  By  means  of 
this  you  Will  pass  without  danger  between  the  two 
mountains  whjch  fight  against  each  other/  With  the 
second  they  said  :  4  By  means  of  this  you  will  walk 
without  obstruction  along  the  road  which  is  defended 
by  the  great  serpent.'  With  the  third  :  '  By  this  you 
will  go  securely  through  the  place  where  there  is  the 
crocodile  Xochitonal.'  The  fourth  was  a  safe  pass- 
port through  the  eight  deserts,  the  fifth  through  the 
eight  hills,  and  the  sixth  was  given  in  order  to  pass 
without  hurt  through  the  sharp  wind,  for  they  pre- 
tended that  it  was  necessary  to  pass  a  place  called 
Itzehecajan  where  a  wind  blew  so  violently  as  to  tear 
up  rocks,  and  so  sharp  that  it  cut  like  a  knife,  on  which 
account  they  burned  all  the  habits  which  the  deceased 
had  worn  during  life,  their  arms,  and  some  household 
goods  in  order  that  the  heat  of  this  fire  might  defend 
them  from  the  cold  of  that  terrible  wind. 

"  One  of  the  chief  and  most  ridiculous  ceremonies 
at  funerals  was  the  killing  of  a  techichi,  a  domestic 
quadruped,  resembling  a  little  dog,  to  accompany  the 
deceased  in  their  journey  to  the  other  world.  They 
fixed  a  string  about  its  neck,  believing  that  necessary 
to  pass  the  deep  river  of  Chiuhnahuapan  or  New 
Waters.  They  buried  the  techichi,  or  burned  it  along 
with  the  body  of  its  master,  according  to  the  kind  of 
death  of  which  he  died.  While  the  masters  of  the 
ceremonies  were  lighting  up  the  fire  in  which  the 
body  was  to  be  burned  the  other  priests  kept  singing 
in  a  melancholy  strain.  After  burning  the  body,  they 
gathered  the  ashes  in  an  earthen  pot,  amongst  which, 
according  to  the  circumstances  of  the  deceased,  they 
put  a  gem  of  more  or  less  value,  which  they  said 


would  serve  him  in  place  of  a  heart  in  the  other 
world.  They  buried  this  earthen  pot  in  a  deep  ditch, 
and  fourscore  days  after  made  oblations  of  bread 
and  wine  over  it." 

The  localities  where  the  sorceries  of  the  Mexican 
priests  were  held  were  usually  caverns  or  the  under- 
ground portions  of  the  temples.  Such  a  place 
at  Mitla  is  described  by  Father  Torquemada  as 
follows  : 

"  When  some  monks  of  my  order,  the  Franciscan, 
passed  preaching  and  shriving  through  the  province 
of  Zapoteca,  whose  capital  city  is  Tehuantepec,  they 
came  to  a  village  which  was  called  Mictlan,  that  is 
Underworld  (Hell).  Besides  mentioning  the  large 
number  of  people  in  the  village  they  told  of  buildings 
which  were  prouder  and  more  magnificent  than  any 
which  they  had  hitherto  seen  in  New  Spain.  Among 
them  was  a  temple  of  the  evil  spirit  and  living-rooms 
for  his  demonical  servants,  and  among  other  fine 
things  there  was  a  hall  with  ornamented  panels, 
which  were  constructed  of  stone  in  a  variety  of 
arabesques  and  other  very  remarkable  designs.  There 
were  doorways  there,  each  one  of  which  was  built  of 
but  three  stones,  two  upright  at  the  sides  and  one 
across  them,  in  such  a  manner  that,  although  these 
doorways  were  very  high  and  broad,  the  stones  suf- 
ficed for  their  entire  construction.  They  were  so 
thick  and  broad  that  we  were  assured  there  were  few 
like  them.  There  was  another  hall  in  these  buildings, 
or  rectangular  temples,  which  was  erected  entirely  on 
round  stone  pillars,  very  high  and  very  thick,  so 
thick  that  two  grown  men  could  scarcely  encircle 
them  with  their  arms,  nor  could  one  of  them  reach 
the  finger-tips  of  the  other.  These  pillars  were  all  in 
one  piece,  and,  it  was  said,  the  whole  shaft  of  a  pillar 
measured  five  ells  from  top  to  bottom,  and  they 
were  very  much  like  those  of  the  Church  of  Santa 


Maria  Maggiore  in  Rome,  very  skilfully  made  and 

Father  Burgoa  gives  a  more  exact  description.  He 
says  : 

"  The  Palace  of  the  Living  and  of  the  Dead  was 
built  for  the  use  of  this  person  (the  high  priest  of  the 
Zapotecs).  .  .  .  They  built  this  magnificent  house  or 
pantheon  in  the  shape  of  a  rectangle,  with  portions 
rising  above  the  earth  and  portions  built  down  into 
the  earth,  the  latter  in  the  hole  or  cavity  which  was 
found  below  the  surface  of  the  earth,  and  ingeniously 
made  the  chambers  of  equal  size  by  the  manner  of 
joining  them,  leaving  a  spacious  court  in  the  middle  ; 
and  in  order  to  secure  four  equal  chambers  they 
accomplished  what  barbarian  heathen  (as  they  were) 
could  only  achieve  by  the  powers  and  skill  of  an 
architect.  It  is  not  known  in  what  stone-pit  they 
quarried  the  pillars,  which  are  so  thick  that  two  men 
can  scarcely  encircle  them  with  their  arms. 

"  There  were  four  chambers  above  ground  and  four 
below.  The  latter  were  arranged  according  to  their 
purpose  in  such  a  way  that  one  front  chamber  served 
as  chapel  and  sanctuary  for  the  idols,  which  were 
placed  on  a  great  stone  which  served  as  an  altar. 
And  for  the  more  important  feasts  which  they  cele- 
brated with  sacrifices,  or  at  the  burial  of  a  king  or 
great  lord,  the  high  priest  instructed  the  lesser  priests 
or  the  subordinate  temple  officials  Who  served  him 
to  prepare  the  chapel  and  his  vestments  and  a  large 
quantity  of  the  incense  used  by  them.  And  then  he 
descended  with  a  great  retinue,  while  none  of  the 
common  people  saw  him  or  dared  to  look  in  his  face, 
convinced  that  if  they  did  so  they  would  fall  dead  to 
the  earth  as  a  punishment  for  their  boldness.  And 
when  he  entered  the  chapel  they  put  on  him  a  long 
white  cotton  garment  made  like  an  alb,  and  over 
that  a  garment  shaped  like  a  dalmatic,  which  was 


embroidered  with  pictures  of  wild  beasts  and  birds  ; 
and  they  put  a  cap  on  his  head,  and  on  his  feet  a  kind 
of  shoe  woven  of  many- coloured  feathers. 

"  And  when  he  had  put  on  these  garments  he  walked 
with  solemn  mien  and  measured  step  to  the  altar, 
bowed  low  before  the  idols,  renewed  the  incense,  and 
then  in  quite  unintelligible  murmurs  he  began  to 
converse  with  these  images,  these  depositories  of 
infernal  spirits,  and  continued  in  this  sort  of  prayer 
with  hideous  grimaces  and  writhings,  uttering  inar- 
ticulate sounds,  which  fi  led  all  present  with  fear  and 
terror,  till  he  came  out  of  that  diabolical  trance  and 
told  those  standing  around  the  lies  and  fabrications 
which  the  spirit  had  imparted  to  him  or  which  he 
had  invented  himself. 

"  When  human  beings  were  sacrificed  the  ceremonies 
were  multiplied,  and  the  assistants  of  the  high  priest 
stretched  the  victim  out  upon  a  large  stone,  baring 
his  breast,  which  they  tore  open  with  a  great  stone 
knife,  while  the  body  writhed  in  fearful  convulsions, 
and  they  laid  the  heart  bare,  ripping  it  out,  and  with 
it  the  soul,  which  the  devil  took,  while  they  carried 
the  heart  to  the  high  priest  that  he  might  offer  it  to 
the  idols  by  holding  it  to  their  mouths,  among  other 
ceremonies ;  and  the  body  was  thrown  into  the 
burial-place  of  their  '  blessed,'  as  they  called  them. 

"  The  last  (underground)  chamber  had  a  second 
door  at  the  rear,  which  led  to  a  dark  and  gruesome 
room.  This  was  closed  with  a  stone  slab,  which 
occupied  the  whole  entrance.  Through  this  door 
they  threw  the  bodies  of  the  victims  and  of  the  great 
lords  and  chieftains  who  had  fallen  in  battle,  and 
they  brought  them  from  the  spot  where  they  fell, 
even  when  it  was  very  far  off,  to  this  burial-place ; 
and  so  great  was  the  barbarous  infatuation  of  those 
Indians  that,  in  the  belief  of  the  happy  life  which 
awaited  them,  many  who  were  oppressed  by  diseases 


or  hardships  begged  this  infamous  priest  to  accept 
them  as  living  sacrifices  and  allow  them  to  enter 
through  that  portal  and  roam  about  in  the  dark 
interior  of  the  mountain,  to  seek  the  feasting-places 
of  their  forefathers.  And  when  anyone  obtained  this 
favour  the  servants  of  the  high  priest  led  him  thither 
with  special  ceremonies,  and  after  they  allowed  him 
to  enter  through  the  small  door  they  rolled  the  stone 
before  it  again  and  took  leave  of  him,  and  the  unhappy 
man,  wandering  in  that  abyss  of  darkness,  died  of 
hunger  and  thirst,  beginning  already  in  life  the  pain 
of  his  damnation,  and  on  account  of  this  horrible 
abyss  they  called  this  village  Liyobaa. 

"  When  later  there  fell  upon  these  people  the  light 
of  the  Gospel,  its  servants  took  much  trouble  to 
instruct  them,  and  to  find  out  whether  this  error, 
common  to  all  these  nations,  still  prevailed  ;  and 
they  learned  from  the  stories  which  had  been  handed 
down  that  all  were  convinced  that  this  damp  cavern 
extended  more  than  thirty  leagues  underground,  and 
that  its  roof  was  supported  by  pillars.  And  there 
were  people,  zealous  prelates  anxious  for  knowledge, 
who,  in  order  to  convince  these  ignorant  people  of 
their  error,  went  into  this  cave  accompanied  by  a 
large  number  of  people  bearing  lighted  torches  and 
firebrands,  and  descended  several  large  steps.  And 
they  soon  came  upon  many  great  buttresses  which 
formed  a  kind  of  street.  They  had  prudently  brought 
a  quantity  of  rope  with  them  to  use  as  guiding-lines, 
that  they  might  not  lose  themselves  in  this  confusing 
labyrinth.  And  the  putrefaction  and  the  bad  odour 
and  the  dampness  of  the  earth  were  very  great,  and 
there  was  also  a  great  wind  which  blew  out  their 
torches.  And  after  they  had  gone  a  short  distance, 
fearing  to  be  overpowered  by  the  stench,  or  to  step 
on  poisonous  reptiles,  of  which  some  had  been  seen, 
they  resolved  to  go  out  again,  and  to  completely  wall 


up  this  back  door  of  hell.  The  four  buildings  above 
ground  were  the  only  ones  which  still  remained  open, 
and  they  had  a  court  and  chambers  like  those  under- 
ground ;  and  the  ruins  of  these  have  lasted  even  to 
the  present  day." 

We  must  not  close  this  chapter  on  Mexican  magic 
without  some  reference  to  the  physical  apparatus  of 
the  Mexican  magician.  Perhaps  the  most  striking 
emblem  of  his  craft  was  the  naualli  or  disguise,  a 
cloak  which  gave  him  a  resemblance  to  some 
animal  and  which  was  symbolical  of  shape-shifting. 
In  certain  Mexican  manuscripts  we  find  illustrations 
of  these  disguises,  cloaks  cut  and  painted  to  represent 
symbolically  dragons,  butterflies,  bats,  and  jaguars, 
and  most  sorcerers  probably  owned  several  of  these, 
using  them  in  the  belief  that  they  actually  trans- 
formed them  into  the  animals  or  demons  which  they 
purported  to  represent.  They  appear  to  have  been 
a  "  civilized  version  "  of  the  beast-disguises  employed 
by  the  ruder  tribes  of  the  prairies,  bear-disguises, 
wolf-disguises  and  so  forth,  as  used  in  tribal  secret 
ceremonies  by  the  medicine-men. 

The  magical  wand  or  baton  was  an  outstanding 
implement  of  the  sorcerer,  and  Tezcatlipoca  and  other 
gods  are  represented  as  bearing  it  and  are  described 
as  wielding  it  magically  in  the  older  Spanish  writings 
and  the  chronicles  written  by  Indian  half-bloods,  such 
as  "  The  Annals  of  Quahutitlan."  Quetzalcoatl 
also  bears  such  a  staff,  an  upright  with  several  pierced 
cross-pieces,  but  it  has  a  peculiar  significance  of  its 
own.  He  used  it  chiefly  to  beat  upon  the  soil  to  render 
it  fruitful,  and  it  has  thus  an  analogy  to  those  staves 
used  for  a  similar  purpose  by  the  officiating  priests 
of  the  Mysteries  of  Eleusis.  At  other  times  he  is  seen 
holding  a  rattle-staff,  the  sound  of  which  imitated 
the  falling  of  the  rain,  thus  inducing  its  presence  by 
sympathetic  magic. 


Human  knuckle-bones  were  among  the  para- 
phernalia of  the  Mexican  wizard.  With  these  he  cast 
lots,  as  with  dice,  and  foretold  "  fortunes  "  and  cir- 
cumstances by  the  manner  in  which  they  fell  when 
cast,  as  he  did  with  beans  and  pebbles.  That  the 
Mexican  sorcerers  also  wore  masks  in  the  semblances 
of  beasts  and  demons  seems  to  be  proved  from 
illustrations  in  the  manuscripts.  The  cloth  or  carpet 
was  likewise  an  almost  inseparable  adjunct  to  minor 
sorcery,  just  as  it  is  to  legerdemain  to-day. 


THE  demonhood  of  ancient  Mexico  was, 
perhaps,  the  most  gruesome  which  ever 
haunted  any  race  of  men.  It  took  many 
shapes,  and  varied  somewhat  with  locality,  and  it 
scarcely  resembles  any  recognizable  system  of 
demonology,  European  or  Asiatic. 

Those  demons  most  dreaded  were  the  Tzitzimime, 
or  "  monsters  descending  from  above,"  who  were, 
indeed,  the  stars.  The  interpreter  of  the  "  Codex 
Telleriano  "  says  of  them  : 

"  The  proper  signification  of  this  name  is  the  fall 
of  the  demons,  who,  they  say,  were  stars  ;  and  even 
still  there  are  stars  in  heaven  called  after  their  names, 
which  are  the  following  :  Yzcatecaztli,  Tlahvezcal- 
pantecuvtli,  Ceyacatl,  Achitumetl,  Xacupancalqui, 
Mixauhmatl,  Tezcatlipoca,  and  Contemoctli.  These 
were  their  appellations  as  gods  before  they  fell  from 
heaven,  but  they  are  now  named  Tzitzimitli,  which 
means  something  monstrous  or  dangerous." 

Tezozomoc  mentions  them  in  his  Cronica  Mexicana 
in  connection  with  the  building  of  the  great  temple  at 
Mexico.  He  states  that  their  images  were  at  one 
period  still  necessary  for  the  completion  of  the  build- 
ing, and  alludes  to  them  as  "  angels  of  the  air,  holding 
up  the  sky,"  and  "  the  gods  of  the  air  who  draw  down 
the  rains,  waters,  clouds,  thunders,  and  lightnings, 
and  who  are  placed  round  Uitzilopochtli."  He  further 



says  that  these  "  gods  of  the  signs  and  planets  "  were 
brought  to  the  sacred  edifice  and  placed  round  the 
idol  of  Uitzilopochtli. 

They  were  thought  of  by  the  Mexicans  in  much  the 
same  manner  as  the  mediaeval  Christians  regarded  the 
fallen  angels.  An  ancient  myth  tells  us  that  at  one 
time  they  dwelt  in  heaven,  but  because  of  their  sins 
were  expelled  from  its  delights.  It  was  perhaps  as  the 
dwellings  of  the  Tzitzimime  rather  than  as  those 
demons  themselves  that  the  stars  were  thought  of, 
but  their  connection  with  the  orbs  of  night  is  clear. 
They  are  represented  in  the  manuscripts  as  taking 
the  shapes  of  noxious  insects,  spiders,  scorpions,  and 
so  forth. 

One  of  the  most  terrifying  figures  in  this  stellar 
demonology  is  the  goddess  Itzpapalotl,  who  has  the 
attributes  both  of  the  butterfly  and  the  dragon — a 
hideous  mingling  of  the  insect  and  the  earth-monster. 
Another  was  Yacatecutli,  a  personification  of  the 
merchant's  staff,  to  whom  the  pedlars  of  old  Mexico 
offered  nightly  sacrifices  of  their  own  blood,  drawn 
from  their  ears  and  noses,  and  smeared  over  a  heap 
of  the  staves  or  bamboo  walking-sticks  which  they 
generally  carried.  These,  in  the  exigencies  of  travel- 
ling, took  the  place  of  the  idol  of  their  patron  deity. 
Once  a  year,  too,  they  celebrated  his  festival  with 
sanguinary  rites  in  their  own  quarter  of  the  city. 
At  certain  seasons  of  the  year  the  natives  were  in  the 
habit  of  sealing  up  every  possible  loophole  in  their 
houses,  doors,  windows,  and  chimneys,  lest  the 
baleful  influence  of  the  stellar  demons  should  penetrate 
their  dwellings  and  injure  them  or  their  children. 
The  beams  of  the  stars  were  dreaded  perhaps  more 
than  anything  else,  and  even  the  gods  themselves 
were  not  immune  from  baneful  astrological  influences. 

When  night  descended  upon  the  pyramid-temples 
and  market-places  of  Old  Mexico,  and  the  beneficent 


sun-god  had  betaken  himself  to  the  Underworld,  it 
was  a  grim  company  indeed  that  came  from  the  spirit- 
spheres  to  people  the  darkness.  The  demonology  of 
a  Mexican  midnight  was  eloquent  of  the  harsh  fatalism 
of  a  barbarian  people  who  had  but  newly  entered  upon 
the  possession  of  an  ancient  civilization.  From  sun- 
set to  sunrise  Mexico  of  the  marshes  was  a  city  of 
dreadful  night  indeed.  Chief  and  most  terrible  of 
the  tyrants  of  its  dismal  hours  was  Tezcatlipoca, 
"  the  Fiery  Mirror,"  "  He  who  Affrights  the  People," 
divine  master  of  magicians,  who  took  upon  himself 
many  fearful  shapes  and  grisly  disguises.  "  These," 
says  old  Sahagun,  one  of  the  missionary  fathers, 
"  were  masks  which  he  took  to  terrify  the  folk,  to 
have  his  sport  with  them." 

Perhaps  the  most  menacing  of  the  nocturnal  dis- 
guises of  this  god,  who  wore  the  star  of  night  upon  his 
forehead,  was  the  uactli  bird,  a  species  of  hawk, 
vhose  cry  of  "  yeccan,  yeccan"  boded  a  speedy  death 
to  him  who  heard  it.  Another  shape  in  which  he 
haunted  the  woods  was  as  the  "  axe  of  the  night." 
As  midnight  approached,  the  watching  acolytes  in 
the  temple  precincts  might  hear  a  sound  as  of  an  axe 
being  laid  to  the  roots  of  a  tree.  Should  the  coura- 
geous wayfarer  penetrate  the  wooded  places  whence 
the  sound  came,  he  was  seized  upon  by  Tezcatlipoca 
in  the  form  of  a  headless  corpse,  in  whose  bony 
breast  were  "  two  little  doors  meeting  in  the  centre." 
It  was  the  opening  and  closing  of  these,  said  the  Aztecs, 
which  simulated  the  sound  of  a  woodcutter  at  work. 
A  valiant  man  might  plunge  his  hand  into  the  grisly 
aperture,  and  if  he  could  seize  the  heart  within, 
might  ask  what  ransom  he  chose  from  the  demon. 
But  the  craven  who  encountered  this  awful  phantom 
would  speedily  perish  from  fear.  It  is  now  believed 
that  this  peculiar  sound  is  made  by  a  certain  nocturnal 
bird  in  the  Mexican  forests. 


Hauntings  of  all  kinds,  indeed,  were  regarded  as  due 
to  the  agency  of  Tezcatlipoca.  Especially  feared  were 
those  forms  of  him,  headless  and  without  feet,  which 
were  said  to  roll  along  the  ground,  scattering  maladies 
and  diseases  as  they  went.  These  were  believed  to 
augur  speedy  death,  either  in  battle  or,  still  worse, 
by  sickness,  for  a  "  straw  death  "  was  looked  upon 
by  the  warlike  Mexicans  as  a  disgraceful  end,  unworthy 
of  a  soldier.  But  if  the  phantom  was  boldly  grappled 
with  and  forced  to  purchase  its  release  writh  a  thorn 
of  the  maguey -plant,  it  was  thought  that  the  earnest 
thus  secured  would  endow  its  owner  with  good 
fortune  for  the  rest  of  his  life. 

Sometimes  Tezcatlipoca  would  appear  as  a  coyote, 
sometimes  as  a  turkey-cock.  "  They  sometimes 
painted  him  with  cock's  feet,"  says  the  priestly 
interpreter  of  one  of  the  native  manuscripts,  "  for 
they  said  at  times  only  his  feet  were  seen,  and  that  at 
others  he  appeared  sideways,"  alluding  probably  to 
the  fact  that  fear-haunted  wretches  imagined  they 
beheld  him  as  they  looked  sideways  out  of  the  corners 
of  their  eyes. 

It  is  strange  to  find  the  banshee  in  ancient  Mexico, 
or  at  least  a  spirit  which  closely  resembled  her.  The 
natives  knew  her  as  Cuitlapanton,  and  Sahagun  says 
that  she  resembled  "  a  little  fairy."  To  see  her,  as 
in  the  case  of  her  Irish  congener,  meant  death  or  over- 
whelming misfortune.  She  had  a  short  tail,  long 
matted  hair,  which  fell  to  her  middle,  and,  like  the 
banshee,  she  waddled  like  a  duck,  emitting  a  dolorous 
cry  the  while.  All  attempts  to  seize  her  were  vain, 
as  she  would  vanish  in  one  place  and  immediately 
reappear  in  another. 

Another  grisly  apparition  of  the  Mexican  night 
was  a  death's  head  which  was  in  the  habit  of  suddenly 
presenting  itself  to  those  bold  enough  to  venture 
abroad  after  dark.  It  would  dance  in  circles  on  the 


ground,  making  weird  meanings .  If  one  halted  when 
pursued  by  this  ghostly  skull,  its  gyrations  ceased. 
Like  the  Cuitlapanton,  it  could  not  be  grasped  because 
of  its  protean  habit  of  sudden  disappearance,  but  it 
persisted  in  following  the  person  who  fled  from  it 
until  he  reached  the  door  of  his  dwelling. 

If  Europe  can  boast  of  its  Blunderbores  and  its 
Famangomadans,  its  Skrymirs  and  other  titans  and 
jotuns,  its  Tom  Thumbs,  and  its  Alberichs,  America 
has  no  reason  to  blush  for  her  native  giants  and  dwarfs. 
American  Indian  legend,  indeed,  swarms  with  figures 
monstrous  and  diminutive,  the  works  of  whose  hands 
is  still  popularly  supposed  to  be  visible  in  the  immense 
pyramids  of  Mexico  and  even  in  the  mountains 
and  valleys  of  the  Western  hemisphere,  which,  we 
are  informed,  were  carved  and  shaped  by  their 

The  myth  of  Xelhua,  one  of  the  colossi  of  Mexico, 
bears  a  strange  resemblance  to  the  legend  of  Babel. 
In  the  "  Codex  Vaticanus,"  that  strange  book  written 
by  Italian  monks  of  the  sixteenth  century  and 
illustrated  by  Aztec  artists,  his  story  is  to  be  found 
in  circumstances  which,  if  they  permit  of  the  assump- 
tion of  an  ecclesiastical  origin,  still  seem  to  indicate 
even  more  strongly  the  existence  of  a  popular  legend. 
We  are  informed  that  in  the  first  age  of  Mexican 
mythical  history  giants  dwelt  in  the  land.  Seven  of 
the  titan  strain  had  escaped  the  Deluge,  and,  when  the 
earth  began  to  grow  populous  once  more,  one  of  these, 
Xelhua  by  name,  betook  himself  to  Cholula,  and 
began  to  build  the  great  pyramid  which  still  stands 
in  that  place.  His  intention  in  raising  the  huge  mound 
or  teocalli  was  to  provide  himself  with  a  place  of  refuge 
should  the  waters  once  more  seek  to  engulf  the  earth, 
but  when  it  had  reached  a  towering  height,  lightning 
from  heaven  fell  and  destroyed  it.  From  the  destruc- 
tive bolt  fell  a  precious  stone  in  the  shape  of  a  toad,  the 


symbol  of  a  thunder-god,  which  spoke,  reprimanding 
the  builders,  "  enquiring  of  them  their  reason  for 
wishing  to  ascend  into  heaven,  since  it  was  sufficient 
for  them  to  see  what  was  on  the  earth." 

A  fearsome  monster  enow  was  that  which  plagued 
the  Toltecs,  the  legendary  people  of  Mexico,  and 
helped  to  bring  about  their  ultimate  downfall.  A 
great  convention  of  wise  men  of  the  realm  met  at 
Teotihuacan,  to  find  some  means  of  appeasing  the 
gods  after  a  visitation  of  plague  and  war.  During  their 
conference  a  giant  of  immense  proportions  rushed 
into  their  midst,  and,  seizing  them  by  t  scores  in  his 
bony  hands,  hurled  them  to  the  earth,  dashing  their 
brains  out. 

The  dwarf  in  American  legend  is  equally  ubiquitous 
with  the  giant.  Among  the  Mexicans,  the  Tlaloque, 
the  rain-makers,  were  regarded  as  dwarfish  beings 
who  lived  in  four  chambers  surrounding  a  great  court, 
in  which  stood  four  immense  water-casks  containing 
the  "good"  and  the  "bad"  rains.  When  com- 
manded to  distribute  rain  over  a  certain  tract  of 
country,  they  poured  water  from  jars  filled  from  the 
huge  butts,  and  if  these  broke,  thunder  and  lightning 
were  sure  to  follow. 

The  "  Dwarfs  House  "  at  Uxmal  is  the  name  of  a 
small  temple  on  the  summit  of  an  artificial  hill,  to 
which  a  charming  legend  is  attached.  An  old  woman, 
distressed  by  the  loss  of  her  family,  found  an  egg, 
and  wrapping  it  up  in  cotton  cloth,  placed  it  in  a 
corner  of  her  hut.  One  day  she  noticed  that  the  shell 
was  broken,  and  soon  after  a  tiny  creature  crawled 
forth.  This  Yucatecan  Tom  Thumb,  like  his  English 
analogue,  went  to  court,  and  challenged  the  King 
to  a  trial  of  strength.  The  monarch,  amused,  asked 
him  to  lift  a  stone  weighing  half  a  hundredweight, 
which  he  did,  and  in  other  contests  of  a  similar  kind 
defeated  his  antagonist.  The  King,  enraged,  told  him 


that  unless  he  built  a  palace  loftier  than  any  in  the 
city,  he  should  die.  But  his  witch  foster-mother  came 
to  his  aid,  and  next  morning  the  court  awoke  to 
discover,  hard  by,  the  palace  or  temple  which  still 
stands  gleaming  in  all  its  carven  glory  on  the  summit 
of  the  mound.  In  Yucatan  dwarfs  were  sacred  to 
the  sun,  and  were  occasionally  sacrificed  to  that 
luminary,  so  that  the  pigmy  in  question  was  probably 
the  Man  of  the  Sun  who  emerges  from  the  cosmic 


America,  like  the  Old  World,  carries  its  full  quota 
of  fairy  folk,  sprites,  and  goblins,  but  whether  these 
have  been  created  in  an  American  environment  or 
imported  from  the  more  venerable  hemisphere,  it  is 
unnecessary  to  decide  here.  Quite  a  large  proportion 
of  American  fairies  appear  to  have  a  native  "  pro- 
venance," while  others  bear  marks  of  importation 
visible  to  the  student  of  folk-lore.  The  fairy  and  her 
kind  were  as  familiar  to  the  Red  Man  as  to  the  White, 
for  the  excellent  reason  that  throughout  all  his 
geographical  ventures  and  peregrinations  man  has 
always  been  accompanied  by  these  invisible  playmates 
as  well  as  by  his  gods  and  other  more  exalted  tribal 

From  Hudson's  Bay  to  Tierra  del  Fuego  there 
exists  a  wealth  of  traditional  material  relating  to  little 
copper-coloured  fairy  folk — for  the  fairy  invariably 
takes  on  the  racial  colour  of  her  environment.  Nor  is 
the  lubber  fiend,  Puck  or  Robin  Goodfellow,  awanting. 
In  America,  as  in  the  Old  World,  the  realm  of  Faerie 
implies  a  vast  commonwealth  of  spiritual  beings 
recruited  from  many  classes — gods  degraded  or  half- 
forgotten,  sorcerers,  demons,  and  the  souls  of  the 
human  dead,  in  some  instances  associated  with  the 
Underworld,  in  others  with  the  moon,  that  great 
reservoir  of  spiritual  essence,  where,  it  was  thought, 
the  souls  of  the  dead  awaited  re-birth. 


The  Mexican  goddess  Xochiquetzal  strikingly 
resembles  the  Morgan  le  Fay,  Ursula,  or  "  Venus  "  of 
the  Teutonic  and  Celtic  Underworlds,  who,  under  one 
form  or  another,  enticed  Ogier  the  Dane,  Tannhauser, 
and  Thomas  Rymour  into  her  subterranean  paradise. 
The  American  and  European  forms  differ  in  that 
Xochiquetzal  dwells  on  the  summit  of  a  lofty  mountain 
rather  than  in  its  interior,  but  the  general  conditions 
are  the  same.  She  is  surrounded  by  minstrels, 
dwarfs,  and  dancing  maidens,  and  boasts  that  no 
man  is  proof  against  her  wiles  ;  nor,  once  entrapped, 
may  her  victims  escape  from  her  blandishments. 
There  is,  indeed,  a  strong  general  similarity  between  y 
American  and  European  fairy  lore. 

The  Tepictoton  were  tiny  Mexican  spirits  who  seem 
to  have  assisted  the  agriculturist  in  his  labours, 
coaxing  the  maize  and  agave  plants  to  come  to  full 
growth  and  fruition.  Occasionally,  however,  like  all 
fays,  they  were  mischievously  disposed,  and  assumed 
the  shape  of  spiders  or  scorpions.  Other  Mexican 
sprites,  the  Ciuateteo,  were  actually  malignant, 
bringing  strange  diseases  upon  children,  those  time- 
honoured  victims  of  fairy  spleen,  epilepsy,  and  de- 
formity. To  behold  them  was  to  lose  the  sight  of  the 
offending  eye.  They  were,  it  was  said,  dead  women 
or  "  witches,"  who  mourned  for  their  own  children, 
and  were  vindictively  disposed  to  the  offspring  of 
others.  Like  the  fairies  of  Europe,  they  were  associated 
with  the  moon,  and  an  examination  of  their  pranks 
throws  a  strong  comparative  light  upon  European 

Among  the  Maya  Indians  of  Guatemala  the  native 
fairy  tales  have  been  enwoven  with  Spanish  stories  of 
a  similar  character  in  a  pattern  at  once  most  curious 
and  instructive  to  the  amateur  of  folk-belief.  The 
story  of  "The  Boy  and  the  Sword,"  for  example, 
preserves  both  the  incidents  of  the  slaying  of  the  giants 


in  "  The  Popol  Vuh,"  a  native  book  containing  most 
ancient  traditions,  and  the  European  folk-tale  of  the 
boy  who  sets  out  to  seek  his  fortune.  The  Maya  still 
credit  the  existence  of  the  Duenda,  a  capricious 
goblin,  obviously  of  Castilian  origin.  Indeed,  Guate- 
mala and  some  other  of  the  Spanish-American 
republics  offer  unrivalled  fields  for  the  accumulation 
of  that  traditional  material  which  was  quenched  in 
Old  Spain  by  the  Inquisition,  but  still  lingers  in  her 
ancient  colonies.  There  also  exists  in  Guatemala  an 
extraordinary  mass  of  beast  fairy  lore,  regarding  the 
doings  of  such  enchanted  animals  as  the  rabbit,  the 
wolf,  and  the  jaguar. 

We  can  even  trace  the  origin  of  Shakespeare's 
Ariel  to  American  folk-lore.  Indeed,  the  whole  of 
The  Tempest  is  impregnated  with  American  folk- 
lore, and  it  seems  probable  that  Shakespeare  was 
obliged  for  some  of  its  incidents  to  contemporary 
books  of  travel.  D'Orbigny  states  that  the  Yuru- 
cares  of  Brazil  fabled  that  at  the  beginning  of  things 
men  were  pegged  Ariel-like  in  the  knotty  entrails  of 
an  enormous  bole  until  the  God  Tiri,  like  Prospero, 
released  them  by  cleaving  it  in  twain.  Nor  does  the 
American  influence  visible  in  Shakespeare's  fairy  play 
end  here.  The  name  Caliban  is  undoubtedly  derived 
from  the  word  Carib,  often  spelt  Caribani  and  Calibani 
in  older  writers,  and  his  "  dam's  god  Setebos  "  was  the 
supreme  divinity  of  the  Patagonians  when  first 
visited  by  Magellan,  according  to  the  Indian  author 

A  rich  field  of  comparative  inquiry  lies  open  to  the 
European  investigator  of  fairy  lore  in  America,  by 
means  of  which  he  can  test  and  not  infrequently 
justify  his  conclusions  regarding  the  Old  World  forms 
which  crowd  the  lesser  Olympus  of  Elfheim.  The  one 
drawback  to  such  a  work  of  collation  is  that  American 
native  folk-lore  is  scattered  over  a  literature  so  vast 


and  of  such  rapid  and  luxuriant  growth  as  to  daunt 
even  the  most  courageous.  But  the  Americanist, 
even  more  than  the  biologist,  requires  the  courage  of 
despair,  that  reckless  bravado  of  the  intellect,  by 
dint  of  which  new  provinces  of  knowledge  have  so 
often  been  conquered.  To  squander  precious  time 
upon  the  comparison  of  American  and  European 
fairies  may  seem  to  many  as  wasteful  and  ridiculous 
excess  and  as  indicating  a  sadly  frivolous  tendency  ; 
but  the  writer  wishes  with  all  his  heart  that  grim 
circumstance  did  not  stand  between  him  and  con- 
tinued pilgrimage  in  these  realms  of  old  enchant- 

And  just  as  old  Europe  had  her  dragons,  her 
phoenixes,  and  her  basilisks,  so  the  ancient  world  of 
America  could  boast  of  a  mythical  fauna  equally 
weird  and  affrighting.  Differences  of  environment 
naturally  dictated  a  certain  dissimilarity  in  the  form 
and  nature  of  the  fabulous  beasts  of  the  New  World 
from  those  of  the  Old,  yet  on  the  whole  a  close  resem- 
blance between  the  types  is  evident  enough,  and 
can  only  be  accounted  for  by  the  spread  of  myth 
by  migration.  But  whether  America  owes  her 
mythical  menagerie  more  to  Europe  or  Asia  is  still 
obscure,  though  the  probabilities  lean  to  an  Asiatic 

The  dragon,  along  with  the  quite  excessive  burden 
of  associated  lore  he  carries  on  his  scaly  shoulders, 
was  no  stranger  to  the  Columbian  imagination.  But 
the  traditional  form  he  takes  in  America  is  that  of  a 
great  snake  or  serpent  rather  than  the  type  familiar 
to  us  from  Arthurian,  Scandinavian  or  Chinese 
sources.  In  Mexico  and  Central  America  we  find  him 
taking  on  the  local  guise  of  a  great  bird-serpent,  the 
"  feathered  snake,"  symbol  of  the  rain  and  the 
accompanying  trade-winds,  and  harbinger  of  the 
months  of  growth  and  fertility.  He  was,  indeed,  a 


beneficent  rather  than  an  unfriendly  monster,  and 
had  no  such  ravaging  or  maiden-snatching  proclivi- 
ties as  made  him  the  legitimate  prey  of  champions  in 
quest  of  high  emprise.  Indeed,  when  humanized,  as 
he  came  to  be,  we  rather  find  him  in  his  man-like  shape 
possessing  all  the  attributes  of  the  culture-hero.  His 
vast  serpentine  form,  with  spreading  flights  of  feather, 
not  of  scale,  is  a  frequent  motif  on  the  walls  of  the 
ruined  temples  of  Guatemala  and  Chiapas,  and  the 
Indians  of  those  regions  still  see  in  the  massed  clouds 
which  cluster  round  their  hill-tops  the  winged  snake 
of  the  rain,  and  murmur  to  one  another  that  Quet- 
zalcoatl  is  about  to  descend. 

The  Algonquins  told  a  weird  tale  regarding  a 
serpent-woman,  half-snake,  half-female,  who,  they 
told  their  Paleface  hearers,  was  the  grandmother  of 
the  human  race.  Closely  resembling  her  was  the 
Coatlicue  of  the  Aztecs,  half-woman,  half-serpent, 
who  was  represented  by  them  in  her  colossal  statue, 
still  preserved  in  the  National  Museum  of  Mexico,  as 
a  huge  two-headed  serpent  with  the  breasts  of  a 
woman,  attired  in  a  robe  of  serpent  skins,  and  having 
dragon's  feet  and  claws.  Tradition  spoke  of  her  as 
the  mother  of  the  God  of  War,  and  still  later  legend 
as  a  "  pious  widow,"  beloved  of  the  gods.  It  was  to 
this  fearsome  figure  that  the  Aztecs  sacrificed  thou- 
sands of  war  prisoners  annually  in  order  that  the 
crops  might  flourish.  She  appears  to  have  had 
many  of  the  attributes  of  the  Gorgons  of  classical 

Pek,  the  great  lightning-dog  of  the  Maya  of  Yuca- 
tan, descended  from  the  heavens  with  open  jaws  and 
fiery  tongue,  a  sufficiently  horrible  figure,  recalling 
Cerberus.  Possibly  he  was  a  relic  of  the  time  when 
dogs  were  sacrificed  to  the  Fire-god.  He  was  the 
subject  of  many  gruesome  legends,  which  represented 
him  in  much  the  same  guise  as  those  ghostly  canines 


which  were  formerly  said  to  haunt  certain  localities 
in  our  island. 

Among  the  Maya  a  belief  was  current  that  in  certain 
remote  and  gloomy  caverns  there  dwelt  a  huge  and 
exceedingly  bloodthirsty  bat,  called  Camazotz,  who 
swooped  down  upon  and  decapitated  such  venture- 
some persons  as  chanced  to  disturb  his  dark  domain. 
Armed  with  enormous  teeth  and  claws  and  a  nose  in 
the  shape  of  a  great  flint  knife,  he  pounced  upon  the 
interloper  and  with  one  blow  of  his  razor-like  snout 
severed  head  from  body.  In  such  a  manner  did  he 
deal  with  one  of  the  heavenly  twins  when  they  were 
imprisoned  in  his  cavern  by  the  Powers  of  Evil.  But 
the  survivor,  catching  a  tortoise  which  chanced  to  be 
creeping  past,  clapped  it  to  the  bleeding  trunk,  which 
was  magically  accommodated  with  a  new  head.  In 
many  drawings  in  the  Aztec  and  Maya  pictographs 
Camazotz  is  represented  as  a  fiend,  with  outspread 
wings  and  Mephistophelean  grin.  Strange  that  the 
Old  World  never  created  a  demon-figure  from  the  bat, 
and  that  it  was  left  to  the  genius  of  American  art  to 
conjure  up  a  monster  so  entirely  appropriate  to  an 
environment  of  gloom.  Indeed,  the  Maya  Hades  was 
peopled  by  demon  creatures  developed  from  the 
shape  of  bat  and  owl.  That  Camazotz  was  regarded 
by  the  Maya  Indians  with  unconcealed  terror  is  clear 
enough  from  the  accounts  of  many  travellers,  who 
expressly  state  that  no  considerations  of  gain  would 
tempt  their  native  camp-followers  to  venture  near 
the  vicinity  of  one  of  his  known  haunts. 

Fabulous  birds  also  exercised  the  imagination  of 
pre-Columbian  Central  America.  Perhaps  the  most 
remarkable  of  these  was  the  Moan  bird  of  the  Maya, 
a  creature  associated  with  the  clouds,  a  species  of 
cloud-spirit,  somewhat  resembling  an  owl,  or,  as 
some  believe,  a  falcon.  It  is  closely  connected  with 
the  God  of  Death,  and  had  an  ominous  and  sinister 


significance.  To  the  Maya  cloudland  had  a  relation- 
ship with  the  Otherworld,  and  the  Moan  bird  seems 
to  have  been  regarded  by  them  as  the  spirit  of  death, 
a  fowl  whose  appearance  and  cry  betokened  dis- 
solution to  those  it  visited. 


THE  cult  of  the  witch  appears  to  have  been 
as  general  in  ancient  Mexico  as  it  was  in 
Europe  and  Asia,  and  in  its  American  form 
it  bore  so  startling  a  resemblance  to  the  witchcraft 
of  the  Old  World  that  it  is  difficult  not  to  believe 
that  both  can  be  referred  back  to  a  common  origin. 
Indeed,  more  than  one  of  the  zealous  missionaries 
arrived  at  such  a  conclusion.  "  These  women," 
says  one,  writing  of  the  Mexican  sorceresses,  "  are 
such  as  we  in  Spain  call  witches."  But,  curiously 
enough,  in  Old  Mexico,  as  in  Burma,  the  sabbath 
or  convention  of  the  witches  was  engaged  in  by 
the  dead  as  well  as  the  living,  the  evil  ghosts  who 
attended  it  being  recruited  from  among  those  de- 
ceased women  who  had  left  young  children  behind 
them,  and  who,  in  consequence  of  their  bereavement, 
were  supposed  to  be  particularly  vindictive,  wreaking 
their  spite  and  disappointment  on  all  who  were  so 
unlucky  as  to  cross  their  path.  They  are  represented 
in  the  ancient  paintings  as  wearing  black  skirts  on 
which  cross-bones  were  depicted,  and  round  their 
heads  a  fillet  or  band  of  unspun  cotton,  the  symbol 
of  the  earth-goddess.  They  carried  the  witch's  broom 
of  dried  grass,  and  they  are  frequently  accompanied 
by  owls,  snakes,  and  other  creatures  of  ill-omen. 
Their  faces  were  thickly  powdered  with  white  chalk, 
and  sometimes  the  cheeks  were  painted  with  the 
i  129 


figure  of  a  butterfly,  the  emblem  of  the  departed 

One  of  the  most  trustworthy  observers  of  native 
customs  says  of  them :  "  They  vented  their  wrath 
on  people  and  bewitched  them.  When  anyone  is 
possessed  by  the  demons  with  a  wry  mouth  and  dis- 
turbed eyes  .  .  .  they  say  he  has  linked  himself  to  a 
demon.  The  Ciuatete6  (Haunting  Mothers),  housed 
by  the  cross- ways,  have  taken  his  form." 

The  divine  patroness  of  these  witches,  who  flew 
\  through  the  air  upon  their  broomsticks  and  met  at 
cross-roads,  was  the  earth-goddess  Tlazolteotl.  The 
broom  is  her  especial  symbol,  and  in  one  of  the  native 
paintings  she  is  depicted  as  the  traditional  witch, 
naked,  wearing  a  peaked  hat  made  of  bark,  and 
mounted  upon  a  broomstick.  In  other  places  she  is 
seen  standing  at  the  door  of  a  house  accompanied  by 
an  owl,  the  whole  representing  the  witch's  dwelling, 
with  medicinal  herbs  drying  beneath  the  eaves.  Thus 
the  evidence  that  the  Haunting  Mothers  and  their 
patroness  present  an  exact  parallel  with  the  witches 
of  Europe  seems  complete,  and  should  provide  those 
who  regard  witchcraft  as  a  thing  essentially  European 
with  considerable  food  for  thought.  The  Mexican 
sorcery  cult  known  as  Nagualism  was  also  permeated 
with  practices  similar  to  those  of  European  witch- 
craft, and  we  read  of  its  adherents  smearing  them- 
selves with  ointment  resembling  the  "  witch-butter  " 
of  the  European  hags,  which  was  thought  to  aid  flight 
through  the  air,  engaging  in  wild  orgies  and  dances, 
precisely  as  did  the  adherents  of  Vaulderie  in  Southern 
France,  and  casting  spells  on  man  and  beast  alike. 

But  there  is  plenty  of  proof  that  living  women 
desired  to  associate  themselves  with  the  Haunting 
Mothers.  A  monkish  writer  tells  us  that  these  betook 
themselves  to  cross-roads  by  night  and,  throwing 
aside  their  garments,  drew  blood  from  their  tongues 

Above  :  Riding  on  a  broom-stick.         Below  :  Offering  a  child  in  sacrifice. 


to  sacrifice  to  the  Father  of  Evil,  leaving  their  clothes 
behind  them  as  an  offering. 

Like  their  European  sisters,  the  Mexican  witches 
were  in  the  habit  of  intoxicating  themselves  with 
some  potent  drug  so  that  they  might  in  spirit  traverse 
great  distances  or  prophesy  coming  events.  Says 
Acosta  :  "To  practise  this  art  the  witches,  usually 
old  women,  shut  themselves  up  in  a  house  and 
intoxicate  themselves  to  the  verge  of  losing  their 
reason.  The  next  day  they  are  ready  to  reply  to 
questions.  Some  of  them  take  any  shape  they  choose, 
and  fly  through  the  air  with  wonderful  rapidity  and 
for  long  distances.  They  will  tell  what  is  taking  place 
in  remote  localities  long  before  the  news  could  pos- 
sibly arrive.  The  Spaniards  have  known  them  to 
report  mutinies,  battles,  revolts,  and  deaths,  occur- 
ring two  hundred  or  three  hundred  leagues  distant, 
on  the  very  day  they  took  place,  or  the  day  after." 

The  high  priest  who  presided  over  the  Mexican 
witches'  revels  at  the  cross-roads  was  the  god  Tezcat- 
lipoca,  a  deity  of  ill-omen,  who  took  the  place  of 
Satan  in  the  European  witch-sabbath.  He  dis- 
coursed music  for  the  sport  of  his  devotees  on  a  pipe 
made  of  the  arm-bone  of  a  deceased  woman. 

Sahagun  says  of  the  Ciuateteo  : 

4  The  Ciuapipiltin,  the  noble  women,  were  those 
who  had  died  in  childbed.  They  were  supposed  to 
wander  through  the  air,  descending  when  they  wished 
to  the  earth  to  afflict  children  with  paralysis  and  other 
maladies.  They  haunted  cross-roads  to  practise  their 
maleficent  deeds,  and  they  had  temples  built  at  these 
places,  where  bread  offerings  in  the  shape  of  butter- 
flies were  made  to  them,  also  the  thunder-stones 
which  fall  from  the  sky.  Their  faces  were  white,  and 
their  arms,  hands,  and  legs  were  covered  with  a  white 
powder,  ticitl  (chalk).  Their  ears  were  gilded,  and 
their  hair  done  in  the  manner  of  the  great  ladies. 


Their  clothes  were  striped  with  black,  their  skirts 
barred  in  different  colours,  and  their  sandals  were 
white."  He  further  relates  that  when  a  woman  who 
had  died  in  her  first  childbed  was  buried  in  the  temple- 
court  of  the  Ciuateteo,  her  husband  and  his  friends 
watched  the  body  all  night  in  case  young  braves  or 
magicians  should  seek  to  obtain  the  hair  or  fingers  as 
protective  talismans. 

In  some  manuscripts  the  witches  are  represented 
as  clad  in  the  insignia  of  the  goddess  Tlazolteotl,  the 
great  mother-witch,  with  a  fillet  and  ear-plug  of 
unspun  cotton,  a  golden  crescent-shaped  nasal  orna- 
ment, empty  eye-sockets,  and  the  heron-feather 
head-dress  of  the  warrior  caste,  for  the  woman  who 
died  in  childbed  was  regarded  as  equally  heroic  with 
the  man  who  perished  in  battle.  The  upper  parts  of 
their  bodies  were  nude,  and  round  the  hips  they  wore 
a  skirt  on  which  cross-bones  were  painted.  They 
carried  the  witch's  broom  of  malinalli  grass,  a  symbol 
of  death,  and  they  were  sometimes  associated  with 
the  snake,  screech-owl,  and  other  animals  of  ill-omen. 
The  face  was  thickly  powdered  with  white  chalk,  and 
the  region  of  the  mouth,  in  some  cases,  decorated 
with  the  figure  of  a  butterfly.  These  furies  were 
supposed  to  dwell  in  the  region  of  the  west,  and  as 
some  compensation  for  their  early  detachment  from 
the  earth-life  were  permitted  to  accompany  the  sun 
in  his  course  from  noon  to  sunset,  just  as  the  dead 
warriors  did  from  sunrise  to  noon.  At  night  they 
left  their  occidental  abode,  the  Cuitlampa,  or  "  Place 
of  Women,"  and  revisited  the  glimpses  of  the  moon 
in  search  of  the  feminine  gear  they  had  left  behind 
them — the  spindles,  work-baskets,  and  other  articles 
used  by  Mexican  women.  The  Ciuateteo  were  especi- 
ally potent  for  evil  in  the  third  quarter  of  the  astro- 
logical year,  and  those  who  were  so  luckless  as  to 
meet  them  during  that  season  became  crippled  or 


epileptic.  The  fingers  and  hands  of  women  who  had 
died  in  bringing  forth  were  believed  by  magicians, 
soldiers,  and  thieves  to  have  the  property  of  crippling 
and  paralysing  their  enemies  or  those  who  sought  to 
hinder  their  nefarious  calling,  precisely  as  Irish 
burglars  formerly  believed  that  the  hand  of  a  corpse 
grasping  a  candle,  which  they  called  the  "  hand  of 
glory,"  could  ensure  sound  sleep  in  the  inmates  of 
any  house  they  might  enter. 

Further  proof  is  forthcoming  that  living  women  of 
evil  reputation  desired  to  associate  themselves  with 
the  Ciuateteo.  Says  the  interpreter  of  "  Codex  Vati- 
canus  A  "  :  "  The  first  of  the  fourteen  day-signs,  the 
house,  they  considered  unfortunate,  because  they 
said  that  demons  came  through  the  air  on  that  sign 
in  the  figures  of  women,  such  as  we  designate  witches, 
who  usually  went  to  the  highways,  where  they  met 
in  the  form  of  a  cross,  and  to  solitary  places,  and  that 
when  any  bad  woman  wished  to  absolve  herself  of  her 
sins  she  went  alone  by  night  to  these  places  and  took 
off  her  garments  and  sacrificed  there  with  her  tongue 
(that  is,  drew  blood  from  her  tongue),  and  left  the 
clothes  which  she  had  carried  and  returned  naked  as 
the  sign  of  the  confession  of  her  sins." 

The  temples  or  shrines  of  the  Ciuateteo  were  situated 
at  cross-roads,  the  centres  of  ill-omen  throughout  the 
world.  That  the  Mexican  witches  had  a  connection 
with  the  lightning  is  shown  by  the  fact  that  cakes  in 
the  shape  of  butterflies  and  "  thunder-stones  "  were 
offered  them.  But  they  were  also  connected  with 
baneful  astral  or  astrological  influences,  and  are 
several  times  alluded  to  in  the  Interpretative  Codices 
in  this  connection.  The  seasons  at  which  they  were 
most  potent  for  evil  were  those  connected  with  the 
western  department  of  the  tonalamatl,  or  "  calendar." 

But  we  have  further  evidence  that  an  entire  college 
of  witches  existed  in  the  Huaxtec  region  near  the 


coast,  and  that  it  was  sufficiently  powerful  to  invade 
the  Valley  of  Mexico  in  Toltec  times.  These  witches, 
who  were  also  Amazons,  appear  to  have  succeeded 
in  establishing  a  military  superiority  at  Tollan,  the 
capital,  and  in  order  to  celebrate  their  triumph 
resolved  to  sacrifice  a  large  number  of  prisoners  to 
their  patron  goddess.  Addressing  their  captives,  they 
said  :  "  We  desire  to  drench  the  earth  with  you,  to 
hold  a  feast  with  you,  for  till  now  no  battle-offerings 
have  been  held  with  men."  The  Huaxtec  country, 
whence  they  came,  was  a  rich  and  closely  settled 
agricultural  area,  its  people  were  of  Maya  or  Central 
American  stock,  and  its  chief  goddess,  Tlazolteotl, 
whose  priestesses  these  women  were,  represented  the 
earth-mother,  the  bounteous  giver  of  all  fruits  and 
grain.  But  they  believed  that  this  Mexican  Ceres, 
worn  out  by  the  production  of  foodstuffs,  required 
occasional  refreshment.  This  had  formerly  been 
administered  by  pouring  libations  of  the  blood  of 
animals  on  the  hard,  cracked  tropical  soil,  which 
appeared  to  absorb  them  thirstily.  But,  flushed  with 
triumph,  these  Amazons  resolved  to  offer  up  a  sac- 
rifice which  should  outvie  all  former  oblations.  It  is 
also  clear  from  their  menacing  speech  that  the  festival 
was  intended  to  take  the  form  of  a  cannibal  feast,  a 
thing  until  then  unheard  of  in  Mexico,  as  their  own 
statement  seems  to  make  plain.  The  native  records 
insist  upon  the  fact  that  the  institution  of  ceremonial 
cannibalism  was  due  to  these  witches,  for  such  there 
is  abundant  evidence  they  were.  Like  the  Hexen,  or 
witches  of  ancient  Germany,  they  seem  to  have  had 
a  penchant  for  human  flesh,  and  further  resembled 
that  cult  in  their  tendency  to  vampirism. 

The  witch-cult  in  Mexico  had  thus  a  surprising 
resemblance  to  that  of  Europe.  Indeed,  such  amaz- 
ing parallels  can  be  drawn  betwixt  the  two  systems 
that  there  can  be  little  doubt  regarding  their  common 


origin.  In  both  cases  the  chief  minister  was  a  great 
"  black  man  "  (in  the  Mexican  case  Tezcatlipoca,  who 
appears  as  the  witches'  priest),  the  meetings  were 
held  at  cross-roads  or  in  desert  places,  the  devotees 
of  the  cult  flew  through  the  air  on  broomsticks  and 
employed  magical  unguents  to  enable  them  to  do  so  ; 
they  wore  peaked  caps,  and  took  as  their  common 
symbols  the  owl  and  the  bunch  of  dried  medicinal 
herbs.  They  induced  visions  by  drugs,  and  used  dead 
men's  flesh  and  bones  as  charms.  What  is  lacking 
to  prove  the  community  of  their  origin  ? 

What  was  precisely  the  character  of  Tlazolteotl, 
their  patroness  ?  Will  some  consideration  of  her 
cultus  assist  us  in  discovering  the  underlying  nature 
of  Mexican  witchcraft  and  indeed  of  witchcraft  in 
general  ? 

She  is  usually  depicted  as  having  her  face  smeared 
with  white  chalk,  the  upper  part  being  surrounded  by 
a  yellow  band,  the  colour  of  the  maize-plant.  The 
space  about  her  mouth  is  painted  black,  the  symbol 
of  sex.  Sometimes  she  is  clad  in  the  skin  of  a  sacri- 
ficial victim.  On  her  head  she  wears  a  cotton  fillet 
stuck  full  of  spindles,  emblematic  of  the  woman's 
craft  and  business  in  life.  She  carries  a  broom  made 
from  stiff  sharp-pointed  grass.  So  far  as  her  emble- 
matic side  is  concerned,  she  is  assuredly  the  goddess  of 
magic  and  of  women,  the  bringer-forth  in  a  dual 

That  she  had  an  aspect  of  variousness  is  clear  from 
one  of  her  names,  Ixcuine,  or  "  The  Four-faced,"  that 
is,  her  idols  were  sometimes  given  four  faces  so  that 
they  might  look  upon  every  direction  whence  the 
rain  might  come.  The  witches  who  first  made  human 
sacrifices  appear  to  have  been  called  by  this  name. 

But  I  think  we  shall  receive  a  more  just  impression 
of  her  actual  nature  from  a  consideration  of  her 
festival,  the  Ochpaniztli. 


Dancing  is  one  of  the  chief  characteristics  of  this 
festival,  dancing  to  the  drum,  and  a  particular  kind 
of  dancing,  executed  in  silence  and  consisting  mostly 
in  movements  of  the  arms.  It  was  attended  by  "  the 
medical  women,"  that  is  the  herbalists.  A  battle  of 
flowers  was  associated  with  it.  The  victim  sowed 
maize  broadcast  as  she  walked  to  the  sacrifice.  Her 
skin  was  worn  by  the  priest,  another  priest  wearing  a 
mask  made  of  it,  along  with  a  naualli,  or  disguise  of 
feathers.  He  was  covered  in  the  morning  with  other 
feather-cloaks  and  bird-symbols.  Processions  were 
marshalled,  and  more  maize  was  sown.  Also  blood- 
stained brooms  figure  in  the  ceremonies. 

At  the  least,  we  can  glean  from  the  circumstances 
of  this  bizarre  festival  a  number  of  those  inalienably 
associated  with  the  witch-cult  as  known  both  in 
Europe  and  America,  such  as  dancing  silently  to  the 
drum,  herbalism,  the  sowing  of  seed.  Do  we  find 
such  allegory  and  ritual  in  any  particular  region 
whence  they  might  have  penetrated  to  Europe  on 
the  one  hand  and  America  on  the  other,  or  have  acted 
as  links  between  the  analagous  practices  in  those 
continents  ? 

We  appear  to  do  so  in  Siberia.  The  system  of 
sorcery  denominated  Shamanism,  which  is  widely 
prevalent  among  the  tribes  of  the  plains  and  tundras 
of  the  vast  region  known  as  Siberia  appears  to  have 
a  close  resemblance  to  it. 

Authorities  are  divided  as  to  whether  Shamanism 
is  a  form  of  primitive  religion  pure  and  simple  or 
merely  a  survival  of  magical  practices  formerly  con- 
nected with  an  ancient  Asiatic  faith,  a  species  of 
necromancy  practised  by  a  separate  caste  of  priests 
whose  duty  it  was  to  communicate  with  the  world  of 

The  shaman  is  either  a  professional  practitioner  of 
his  cult,  or  he  may  be  a  private  individual  whose 


addiction  to  the  ritual  is  confined  to  the  family 

Sometimesjhe  office  of  shaman  is  hereditary,  but 
in  any  case  the  gift  oFsupernatural  vision,  of  medium- 
ship,  so  to  speak,  is  an  essential  qualification  for 
shamanhood.  Strangely  enough,  nearly  all  the  best 
Russian  authorities  on  the  subject  agree  that  a 
neurotic  condition  in  the  shaman  is  necessary  to 
success.  That  condition  is,  of  course,  a  well-known 
accompaniment  of  the  gift  of  mediumship.  The 
Siberian  spiritualist  is  grave  and  reserved  ;  he  is, 
indeed,  almost  taboo  to  the  people  at  large,  whom  he 
seldom  addresses,  but  among  whom  he  has  great 
influence.  Often  among  the  civilized  the  nervous 
diathesis  creates  the  recluse. 

Many  women  adopt  the  shaman's  art.  These  are 
not  unusually  persons  of  hysterical  tendencies. 
"  People  who  are  about  to  become  shamans,"  says 
Jochelson,  "  have  fits  of  wild  paroxysms,  alternating 
with  a  condition  of  complete  exhaustion.  They  will 
lie  motionless  for  two  or  three  days  without  partaking 
of  food  or  drink.  Finally  they  retire  to  the  wilderness, 
where  they  spend  their  time  enduring  hunger  and  cold 
in  order  to  prepare  themselves  for  their  calling." 

When  the  shaman  accepts  the  call  he  also  accepts 
the  guardianship  of  one  or  more  spirits  by  whose 
means  he  enters  into  communication  with  the  whole 
spirit  world.  But  the  shaman  receives  his  call  through 
the  agency  of  some  animal  or  plant  or  other  natural 
object,  which  he  encounters  at  the  critical  period 
when  he  is  meditating  on  the  life  shamanic.  This  is, 
of  course,  precisely  what  the  Red  Indian  or  Nagualist 
does  when  he  goes  to  seek  his  totem,  and  it  seems  to 
me  as  if  this  analogy  might  throw  a  very  considerable 
light  upon  the  nature  and  origin  of  Totemism,  regard- 
ing which  there  is  at  present  great  dubiety  in  scientific 
circles.  Totemism,  we  know,  has  a  root-connection 


with  spiritism,  and  is  also  connected  with  ancestor- 
worship.  The  spirit  often  appears  and  addresses  the 
would-be  shaman,  precisely  as  does  the  totem  among 
the  American  tribes. 

The  training  of  a  shaman  usually  lasts  for  two  or 
three  years,  and  is  arduous  in  the  extreme.  The 
mental  part  of  his  graduation  consists  in  getting  into 
touch  with  the  "  right "  spirits,  that  is,  the  guardian 
spirits  who  are  to  control  the  medium  during  his 

"  The  process  of  gathering  inspiration  during  the 
first  stages,"  says  Jochelson,  "  is  so  severe  that  a 
bloody  sweat  often  issues  on  the  forehead  and  temples. 
Every  preparation  of  a  shaman  for  a  performance  is 
considered  a  sort  of  repetition  of  the  initiative  pro- 
cess." The  physical  training  consists  of  singing, 
dancing  and  drum-playing.  This  latter  business 
requires  considerable  skill,  and  a  prolonged  course 
of  practice  is  essential  to  success  in  it.  One 
shaman  told  Sternberg  that  before  he  entered  upon 
his  vocation  he  was  exceedingly  ill  for  two  months, 
during  which  time  he  remained  unconscious.  In 
the  night  he  heard  himself  singing  shaman's  songs. 
Then  spirits  appeared  to  him  in  the  shape  of  birds, 
and  one  in  human  form,  who  commanded  him  to 
make  a  drum  and  the  other  apparatus  of  the  art. 

Three  kinds  of  spirits  are  associated  with  the  Yakut 
shamans.  These  are  the  amagyat,  the  yekua,  and  the 
kaliany.  All  shamans  must  possess  the  first.  The 
second  are  more  obscure,  and  appear  to  be  what  is 
known  to  students  of  folk-lore  as  spirits  of  the  "  Life- 
index  "  type,  that  is,  souls  closely  associated  with 
the  welfare  and  continued  existence  of  the  individual. 
These  are  carefully  concealed  from  the  vulgar  gaze. 

"  My  yekua"  said  one  shaman  to  Sieroszewski, 
"will  not  be  found  by  anyone.  It  lies  hidden  far  away 
in  the  mountains  of  Edjigan."  These  yekua  almost 


always  take  on  an  animal  incarnation  like  the  familiars 
of  European  witches,  and  the  meaning  of  the  word — 
"  animal-mother  " — seems  to  give  them  an  affinity 
with  the  totemic  spirits.  If  the  yekua  dies  the  shaman 
dies.  The  kaliany  are  mere  demons,  obsessive  or 

Among  the  Takuts  a  definite  ceremony  attends  the 
consecration  of  a  young  shaman.  One  of  the  older 
among  the  brotherhood  leads  the  youth  about  to  be 
initiated  to  the  top  of  a  high  mountain  or  into  a  clear- 
ing in  a  forest.  Here  he  dresses  the  young  man  in 
ceremonial  garments,  gives  him  a  shaman's  rattle, 
and  places  on  one  side  of  him  nine  chaste  youths  and 
on  the  other  nine  chaste  maidens.  Then  he  commands 
him  to  repeat  certain  words.  He  tells  him  that  he 
must  renounce  all  worldly  things,  and  instructs  him 
as  to  the  dwelling-places  of  the  various  spirits  to  whom 
he  is  about  to  consecrate  his  life.  An  animal  is  then 
sacrificed,  and  the  novice  is  sprinkled  with  its  blood. 
This  constitutes  the  primary  ceremony,  but  there  are 
nine  in  all,  and  of  these  only  a  small  proportion  of 
the  brotherhood  undergoes  the  whole.  Some  of  the 
later  ceremonies  are  very  involved,  and  have  evidently 
the  cumulative  practice  and  ritual  of  many  ages 
behind  them. 

Among  the  northern  Siberian  tribes  the  shaman 
combines  the  offices  of  priest,  medicine-man  and 
prophet.  In  the  south  the  shamanic  brotherhood  is 
divided  into  "  black  "  and  "  white  "  shamans,  the 
first  class  acting  as  the  mouthpieces  of  the  evil  spirits, 
and  the  second  as  mediums  between  the  beneficent 
spirits  and  mankind.  The  white  shamans  take  part 
in  marriage  ceremonies,  fertilization  rites  and  the 
curing  of  diseases,  but  the  black  are  not  necessarily 
malevolent,  and  frequently  employ  their  powers  for 
good.  Again,  all  shamans  are  divided  into  "  great," 
"  middling,"  and  "  little,"  according  to  their  powers. 


Women  among  the  southern  Siberians  are  nearly 
always  black  shamans,  the  reason  given  for  this  being 
that  their  sex  is  more  predisposed  to  the  dark  side  of 
the  occult  arts. 

Shamanism  is,  then,  a  system  of  spiritism,  but  it 
embraces  certain  equivalents  to  witchcraft — the  use 
of  the  drum  and  dancing,  herbalism,  the  cultivation 
of  spiritual  familiars.  So  far  we  seem  to  have  traced 
a  connection  between  Asia  and  America.  But  whence 
came  the  broom,  "  the  witch's  palfry,"  to  America, 
whence  proceed  the  battle  of  flowers,  the  sowing  of 
seed  ? 

The  broom,  in  the  ceremonies  of  the  earth-goddess, 
was  made  of  stiff  malinalli  or  mountain-grass  tied  to  a 
stick,  and  was  the  symbol  of  the  spring  florescence, 
the  outbursting  of  nature.  It  was  splashed  with  the 
blood  of  the  sacrificed  victim,  which,  I  consider,  was 
thought  to  give  it  life,  and  I  believe  that  thus  splashed 
it  was  originally  regarded  as  the  emblem  of  nature 
revivified,  and  that  the  sweeping  and  cleansing  process 
for  which  it  was  used  in  the  temples  was  merely  an 
afterthought.  Bathed  in  blood,  it  partook  magically 
of  the  nature  of  life,  was  looked  upon  as  a  living  thing, 
and  together  with  the  unguent  of  flight,  which  was 
rubbed  on  the  body,  came  to  be  thought  of  as  a  magical 
agent  of  levitation.  Perhaps,  by  the  law  of  sympa- 
thetic magic,  the  heights  whence  its  material  was 
gathered,  conferred  on  it  the  ability  to  raise  one  in 
the  air,  the  idea  of  lofty  motion.  The  strange  thing 
is  that  in  America,  a  continent  where  no  horse  or 
other  animal  suitable  for  riding  was  known  in  pre- 
Columbian  times,  the  notion  of  riding  on  the  broom  is 
found,  and  this  certainly  looks  as  if  the  idea  had  been 

I  believe  it  to  have  been  so  in  what  are  known  to 
students  of  Pre-history  as  Azilian  times.  In  a  rock- 
shelter  at  the  village  of  Cogul  near  Lerida  in  Spain 


some  curious  paintings  have  been  discovered  portray- 
ing the  rites  of  early  witchcraft  among  the  Azilian 
population  which  flourished  in  that  area  more  than 
ten  thousand  years  ago.  One  of  these  depicts  a 
number  of  women  wearing  skirts  and  peaked  hats 
precisely  like  those  of  the  witches  of  later  times, 
dancing  round  a  black  man,  doubtless  the  priest  or 
"  Great  Black  Man  "  of  later  witch-tradition. 

It  is  known,  too,  that  mummy-flesh  or  dead  men's 
flesh  was  employed  for  magical  purposes  by  the  witches 
of  both  Europe  and  America. 

Throughout  the  witch-literature  of  Europe  the 
mummy  is  constantly  alluded  to  as  part  of  the 
magical  apparatus  of  the  witch.  When  she  failed  to 
obtain  it  she  had  recourse  to  using  earth  taken  from 
a  newly-made  grave  as  a  substitute.  So  far  as  I  am 
aware,  we  do  not  find  this  practice  in  Eastern  Asia, 
but  that  it  was  in  vogue  in  America  is  substantiated 
by  more  than  one  instance.  Allusion  has  already  been 
made  to  the  magical  employment  of  the  hands  and 
fingers  of  dead  women  in  Mexico,  and  Dawson,  in  his 
u  Rites  and  Observations  on  the  Kwakiootl  People  of 
Vancouver,"  alludes  to  an  interesting  case  of  it  in 
that  part  of  America.  He  says  that  when  a  Kwakiootl 
wizard  desired  to  bewitch  anyone,  he  tried  to  procure 
a  lock  of  his  hair,  or  a  part  of  his  clothing.  "  These 
are  placed  with  a  small  piece  of  the  skin  and  flesh  of 
a  dead  man,  dried  and  roasted  before  the  fire,  and 
rubbed  and  pounded  together.  The  mixture  is  then 
tied  up  in  a  piece  of  skin  or  cloth,  which  is  covered 
over  with  spruce  gum.  The  little  package  is  next 
placed  in  a  human  bone,  which  is  broken  for  the 
purpose  and  afterwards  carefully  tied  together  and 
put  within  a  human  skull.  This  again  is  placed  in  a 
box,  which  is  tied  up  and  gummed  over  and  then 
buried  in  the  ground  in  such  a  way  as  to  be  barely 
covered.  .  .  .  This  is  done  at  night  or  the  early 


morning  and  in  secret,  and  is  frequently  repeated 
until  the  enemy  dies."  The  drying  of  the  human 
remains  over  a  fire  shows  quite  clearly  that  what  was 
desired  was  a  piece  of  flesh  capable  of  desiccation  and 
admixture  with  other  elements,  as  in  the  operations 
of  European  witches.  Benzoni  tells  us  that  the 
medicine-men  among  the  Borenquenos  of  the  West 
Indies  took  some  small  bones  and  a  little  flesh  and 
powdered  them  together  as  a  purgative  for  the 

My  impression  is,  then,  that  the  witchcraft  of  Mexico 
drew  its  origin  from  two  different  areas  :  the  Azilian 
area  of  Spain,  which,  by  the  way,  was  the  chief  home 
of  the  broom-riding  witch-cult  in  the  Europe  of  the 
late  Middle  Ages,  and  the  Shamanism  of  Siberia. 
From  the  former  area  it  may  have  penetrated  by  way 
of  one  of  the  land-bridges  which  spanned  the  Atlantic 
until  comparatively  recent  geological  times,  whilst 
it  would  draw  elements  from  the  latter  by  way  of 
Kamschatka  and  the  Aleutian  Islands. 

I  am  not  at  all  sure,  however,  that  Mexico,  or  at 
least  some  part  of  America,  did  not  receive  very 
considerable  religious  and  cultural  gifts  from  Druidic 
Britain,  although  I  advance  the  suggestion  with  the 
greatest  possible  reserve  and  as  a  suggestion  merely. 
The  British  peoples  of  the  first  .Christian  century 
were  capable  of  building  ships  much  larger  and  more 
seaworthy  than  those  of  the  Romans,  so  Caesar  tells 
us,  and  that  both  British  and  Irish  Druids  were 
addicted  to  levitation  and  believed  themselves 
capable  of  flying  through  the  air  is  clearly  demon- 
strated by  legend.  There  is,  indeed,  nothing  in 
Mexican  witchcraft  which  might  not  well  have 
emanated  from  early  Britain.  May  not  Quetzalcoatl 
have  been  a  Druid  priest  ?  It  would  be  comparatively 
easy  to  bring  a  vast  amount  of  evidence  to  prove  that 
he  was,  but  that  evidence  would  lack  the  certainty 


of  historical  corroboration  and  could  rest  on  analogy 

As  regards  the  presence  of  the  battle  of  flowers  in 
Mexico,  I  believe  it  to  be  of  similar  origin  to  that 
presently  to  be  observed  in  the  South  of  France — 
an  ancient  witch-area.  It  was  the  allegory  of  the 
defeat  of  winter,  or  the  dry  season,  by  spring.  How 
many  of  those  who  take  part  in  it  in  the  gay  cities 
of  the  Riviera  are  aware  that  they  are  perpetuating 
a  most  ancient  rite  not  unconnected  with  human 
sacrifice  ? 


THE  Mexican  system  of  Astrology,  although 
it  has  considerable  resemblances  with  those 
of  Europe  and  Asia,  is  really  a  system  of 
native  growth  and  origin,  and  must  be  studied 
separately  from  all  others.  It  is  based  on  what  is 
known  as  the  tonalamatl,  or  so-called  "  calendar  " 
of  the  Aztecs.  But  I  will  deal  with  it  here  very 
practically,  in  order  that  students  of  other  astrologies 
may  compare  it  with  the  system  they  study,  and 
because  it  is  certainly  time  that  this  particular 
American  system  should  be  presented  to  students 
of  the  occult  in  a  plain  and  understandable  manner. 
A  thorough  knowledge  of  the  tonalamatl  is  essential 
in  order  to  grasp  the  fundamentals  of  Mexican 
religion,  but  its  significance  has  perhaps  been  height- 
ened by  the  difficulties  which  certainly  attend  its 
consideration.  I  have  endeavoured  to  present  the 
subject  here  as  simply  as  possible,  and  to  keep  all 
distracting  side-issues  for  later  consideration  and  away 
from  the  main  proof.  Most  of  these,  indeed,  have  been 
created  by  writers  who  have  too  closely  identified 
the  tonalamatl  with  the  solar  calendar,  and  have  added 
to  the  obscurity  of  the  subject  by  the  introduction 
of  abstruse  astronomical  hypotheses  which  have  only 
a  problematical  connection  with  it. 

The  word  tonalamatl  means  "  Book  of  the  Good  and 
Bad  Days,"  and  it  is  primarily  a  "  Book  of  Fate," 



from  which  the  destiny  of  children  born  on  such  and 
such  a  day,  or  the  result  of  any  course  to  be  taken  or 
any  venture  made  on  any  given  day,  was  forecasted 
by  divinatory  methods,  similar  to  those  which  have 
been  employed  by  astrologers  in  many  parts  of  the 
world  in  all  epochs.  The  tonalamatl,  was,  therefore, 
in  no  sense  a  time-count  or  calendar  proper,  to  which 
purpose  it  was  not  well  suited  ;  but  it  was  capable 
of  being  adapted  to  the  solar  calendar.  It  is  equally 
incorrect  to  speak  of  the  tonalamatl  as  a  "  ritual 
calendar."  It  has  nothing  to  do  directly  with  ritual 
or  religious  ceremonial,  and  although  certain  repre- 
sentations on  some  tonalamatls  depict  ritual  acts, 
no  details  or  directions  for  their  operation  are 

The  original  tonalamatl  was  probably  a  day-count 
based  on  a  lunar  reckoning.  The  symbols  appear  to 
have  been  those  of  the  gods  or  other  mythological 
figures.  Thus  cipactli  was  merely  the  earth-monster, 
quauhtli  the  eagle,  a  surrogate  for  the  Sun-god,  and 
So  on.  Later  the  tonalamatl  lost  its  significance  as  a 
time-count  when  it  was  superseded  as  such  by  the 
solar  calendar.  It  then  took  on  the  complexion  of  a 
book  of  augury,  so  that  the  temporal  connection  it 
had  with  the  gods  was  altered  to  a  purely  augural 
one.  The  various  days  thus  became  significant  for 
good  or  evil  according  to  the  nature  of  the  gods  who 
presided  over  them,  or  over  the  precise  hour  in  which 
a  subject  was  born  or  any  act  done;  As  in  astrology, 
a  kind  of  balance  was  held  between  good  and  evil, 
so  that  if  the  god  presiding  over  the  day  was  inaus- 
picious, his  influence  might,  in  some  measure,  be 
counteracted  by  that  of  the  deity  who  presided  over 
the  hour  in  which  a  child  first  saw  the  light  or  an  event 

The  tonalamatl  was  composed  of  20  day-signs  or 
hieroglyphs  repeated  13  times,  or  260  day-signs  in  all. 


These  260  days  were  usually  divided  into  20  groups 
of  13  days  each,  sometimes  called  "  weeks."  To 
effect  this  division  the  numbers  1  to  13  were  added 
to  the  20  day-signs  in  continuous  series  as  follow  : 





































































flint  knife 



















and  so  on.  It  will  be  seen  from  this  list  that  the 
fourteenth  day-sign  takes  the  number  1  again.  Each 
of  the  day-signs  under  this  arrangement  has  a  number 
that  does  not  recur  in  connection  with  that  sign  for 
a  space  of  260  days,  as  is  proved  by  the  circumstance 
that  the  numbers  of  the  day-signs  and  figures  (20 
and  13),  if  multiplied  together,  give  as  a  product  260, 
the  exact  number  of  days  in  the  tonalamatl. 

The  combination  of  signs  and  figures  thus  provided 
each  day  in  the  tonalamatl  with  an  entirely  distinct 
description.  For  example  :  the  first  day,  cipactli, 
was  in  its  first  occurrence  1  cipactli ;  in  its  second  8 




cipactli  ;  in  its  third  2  cipactli  ;  in  its  fourth  9  cipactli, 
and  so  on. 

No  day  in  the  tonalamatl  was  simply  described  as 
cipactli,  coatl,  or  calli,  and  before  its  name  was  com- 
plete it  was  necessary  to  prefix  to  it  one  of  the 
numbers  1  to  13  as  its  incidence  chanced  to  fall. 
Thus  it  was  designated  as  ce  cipactli  (one  crocodile) 
or  ome  coatl  (two  snake)  as  the  case  might  be.  Each 
of  the  20  groups  of  13  days  (which  are  sometimes 
called  "  weeks  ")  was  known  as  a  division  by  the 
name  of  the  first  day  of  the  group,  as  ce  cipactli  (one 
crocodile),  ce  ocelotl  (one  ocelot),  ce  mazatl  (one  deer), 
and  so  on. 

Each  of  the  day-signs  of  the  tonalamatl  was  pre- 
sided over  by  a  god  who  was  supposed  to  exercise  a 
special  influence  over  it.  These  patron  gods  were  as 
follow : 


Patron  god 


Patron  god 



































(or  variant) 

(or  variant) 









There  are  slight  divergencies  from  the  standard 
list  in  some  of  the  codices,  but  such  are  usually 
accounted  for  by  the  interpolation  of  variant  phases 
of  the  deities  given. 

Each  of  the  20  tonalamatl  divisions,  or  "  weeks  " 


of  13  days  each,  as  they  are  sometimes  erroneously 
but  usefully  designated,  had  also  a  patron  god  of  its 
own  which  ruled  over  its  fortunes.  The  initial  days 
of  these  "  weeks "  gave  the  name  to  the  entire 
"  week,"  therefore  the  designation  of  the  20  weeks 
was  the  same  as  that  of  the  20  day-signs  ;  but  the 
"  weeks,"  or  rather  the  week-names,  did  not  follow 
each  other  in  the  same  incidence  as  the  days,  as  will 
be  seen  from  the  foregoing  table. 

The  list  of  gods  of  the  "  weeks  "  would  thus  be  as 
follows  : 














Xipe  Totec 






Xiuhtecutli  and  Itztli 

Apart  from  the  signs  of  the  days  themselves,  the 
presiding  deities  of  the  weeks  and  the  gods  of  the 
individual  dates,  the  numerical  signs  also  possessed 
a  lucky  or  unlucky  significance.  Three  and  four  were 











































































lucky  numbers,  five  and  six  were  generally  ominous, 
seven  was  invariably  good,  eight  and  nine  bad,  ten, 
eleven,  twelve,  and  thirteen  good.  The  diviner  took 
into  account  all  these  possible  influences  in  consider- 
ing the  fortune  attached  to  a  particular  day. 

Besides  the  patron  gods  of  the  days  and  the  weeks 
there  were  nine  "  Lords  of  the  Night  "  which,  I  am 
inclined  to  think  with  Seler,  were  not  "  lords  "  or 
governors  of  nine  consecutive  nights,  but  of  the  nine 
hours  of  each  night.  We  know  the  names  of  these 
gods  from  the  first  interpreter  of  "  Codex  Vaticanus 
A,"  who  gives  them  as  follows,  with  their  influences  : 

1  Xiuhtecutli  .  .  Good 

2  Itztli           .  .  .  Bad 

3  Piltzintecutli  .  .  Good 

4  Centeotl     .  .  .  Indifferent 

5  Mictlantecutli  .  .  Bad 

6  Chalchihuitlicue  .  .  Indifferent 

7  Tlazolteotl  .  .  Bad 

8  Tepeyollotl  .  .  Good 

9  Tlaloc         .  .  .  Indifferent 

Gama  describes  these  nine  gods  as  Acompanados 
(Companions)  and  as  Senores  de  la  Noche  (Lords  of 
the  Night)  and  from  his  obscure  rendering  of  Cristoval 
de  Castillo,  as  well  as  from  the  "  Manuel  de  Ministros 
de  Indios  "  of  Jacinto  de  la  Serna,  we  gather  that  they 
held  sway  over  the  night  hours  from  sunset  to  sun- 
rise. The  Mexicans  divided  the  night  into  nine  hours, 
and  it  is  obvious  from  the  astrological  point  of  view 
that  the  Mexican  soothsayers  who  used  the  tonalamatl 
must  have  found  it  necessary  to  estimate  not  only 
the  "  fate  "  of  the  several  days,  but  also  that  of  the 
several  hours  and  times  of  the  day  and  night. 

This  of  course  applies  with  equal  force  to  the  thir- 
teen so-called  "  Lords  of  the  Day,"  who  almost 


certainly  acted  as  gods  of  the  thirteen  hours  of  the 
day.    They  were  : 

1  Xiuhtecutli  8  Tlaloc 

2  Tlaltecutli  9  Quetzalcoatl 

3  Chalchihuitlicue          10  Tezcatlipoca 

4  Tonatiuh  11  Mictlantecutli 

5  Tlazolteotl  12  Tlauizcalpantecutli 

6  Teoyaomiqui  13  Ilamatecutli 

7  Xochipilli 

Seler,  in  his  "  Commentary  on  the  Aubin  Tonal- 
amatl,"  gives  the  following  table  of  the  gods  of  the 
night  and  day  hours  : 



7.  Xochipilli-Cinteotl 
6.  Teoyaomiqui    8.  Tlaloc 
5.  Tlazolteotl  9.  Quetzalcoatl 

4.  Tonatiuh  10.  Tezcatlipoca 

3.  Chalchihuitlicue  11.  Mictlantecutli 

2.  Tlaltecutli  12.  Tlauizcalpantecutli 

1.  Xiuhtecutli  (Day)  13.  Ilamatecutli 

IX.  Tlaloc  I.  Xiuhtecutli 

VIII.  Tepeyollotl  II.  Itztli 

VII.  Tlazolteotl  III.  Piltzintecutli-Tonatiuh 

VI.  Chalchihuitlicue    IV.  Cinteotl 
V.  Mictlantecutli 

This  casts  light  on  the  method  of  augury  of  the 
priests.  Thus  the  hour  of  noon  was  auspicious 
because  it  was  connected  with  the  mystic  number  7, 
and  9  was  a  number  of  good  augury  with  sorcerers 
because  it  gave  the  number  of  the  underworlds  and 
of  the  night-hours.  Recapitulating  we  find  : 

1.  That  the  tonalamatl  was  a  "  Book  of  Fate,"  and 
not  in  itself  a  calendar  or  time-count. 


2.  That  it  was  composed  of  20  day-signs,  repeated 
13  times,  or  260  day-signs  in  all. 

3.  That  these  were  usually  divided  into  20  groups 
of   13   days   each,    erroneously   but   usefully   called 
"  weeks."     The  initial  day  of  these  "  weeks  "  gave 
the  name  to  the  entire  "  week." 

4.  To  effect  this  division  the  numbers  1  to  13  were 
added  to  the  20  day-signs  in  continuous  series. 

5.  That  by  this  arrangement  each  day-sign  had  a 
number  that  did  not  recur  in  connection  with  that 
sign  for  a  space  of  260  days. 

6.  That  the  name  of  a  day-sign  in  the  tonalamatl 
was  not  complete  without  its  accompanying  number. 

7.  Each  of  the  day-signs  of  the  tonalamatl  was 
presided  over  by  a  god  who  was  supposed  to  exercise 
a  special  influence  over  it.    (See  list.) 

8.  Besides  the  patron  gods  of  the  days  and  "  weeks  " 
there  were  : 

(a)  Nine  "  lords  "  or  patron  gods  of  the  night- 

(b)  Thirteen  "  lords  "  of  the  day-hours. 

Now  we  have  seen  that  the  day-gods  each  pos- 
sessed a  special  sign,  and  that  some  wielded  a  good 
and  others  an  evil  influence.  The  like  holds  true  of 
the  gods  of  the  weeks,  the  day  and  night  hours.  In 
the  balance  and  repercussion  of  their  signs  with  and 
on  one  another  lay  the  whole  art  of  Mexican  "  as- 
trology," just  as  in  the  consideration  of  the  evil  and 
good  influence  of  the  planets  at  a  certain  time  the 
astrologers  of  Europe  and  Asia  were  able  to  predict 
certain  occurrences  and  issues. 

We  know  what  certain  of  the  signs  portended  for 
the  Mexicans.  For  instance,  Sahagun  says  of  the 
sign  Ce  ail  (one  water)  that  the  great  lords  and  rich 
merchants  at  the  birth  of  one  of  their  children  "  paid 


the  greatest  attention  to  this  sign,"  and  the  day  and 
hour  at  which  the  child  was  born.  "  They  at  once 
inquired  of  the  astrologers  what  fortune  the  child 
might  expect  to  encounter,  and  if  the  sign  were  pro- 
pitious they  had  the  infant  baptized  without  delay, 
whereas  if  it  were  the  opposite  they  waited  until  the 
nearest  day  which  had  a  propitious  sign." 

It  was  believed  that  the  "  week  "  sign  Ce  quiauitl 
(one  rain)  was  especially  ominous,  because  at  this 
season  the  dead  witches,  the  Ciuateted,  descended 
and  inflicted  maladies  upon  the  people,  distorting 
their  limbs  and  causing  epilepsy,  especially  among 
women  and  children.  On  this  occasion  they  sacri- 
ficed malefactors  to  these  evil  spirits.  The  same  held 
good  of  the  "  week  "  sign  ce  ozomatli  (one  monkey). 

The  sign  ce  acatl  (one  cane)  was  propitious  and 
denominated  the  star  of  Quetzalcoatl,  the  light  of  the 
world,  as  were  the  thirteen  days  commenced  by 
Malinalli,  the  symbol  of  grass,  presided  over  by 
Patecatl,  the  drink-god.  Of  persons  born  on  the  day 
five  cipactli  (crocodile)  they  said  "  that  the  men  would 
all  be  rogues  and  the  women  prostitutes."  Men  born 
on  thirteen  quauhtli  (eagles)  would  be  valiant  in  war, 
but  those  who  saw  the  light  under  ollin  (motion) 
would  be  rascals  and  tale-bearers,  this  sign  having  a 
protean  character. 

If  a  person  were  born  under  the  sign  six  eecatl 
(winds)  he  would  be  rich  and  prudent,  but  those  who 
came  under  seven  quauhtli  would  suffer  from  incurable 
diseases  of  the  heart,  the  eagle  sign  probably  inferring 
height  and  therefore  dizziness.  A  man  born  under 
the  symbol  of  one  wind  would  be  healthy  in  his 
nativity,  but  did  he  fall  into  ill-health  would  suffer 
from  severe  pains  in  the  side  and  cancer. 

The  day  of  nine  dogs  applied  to  magicians,  possibly 
because  of  its  arcane  number,  and  especially  to  those 
sorcerers  who  transformed  themselves  into  beasts  or 


serpents.  The  people  in  general  therefore  feared  this 
day  exceedingly,  and  shut  themselves  up  in  their 
houses  in  order  that  they  might  not  witness  any 
magical  metamorphoses.  The  same  applied  to  the 
sign  ollin. 

Men  born  in  the  sign  of  one  flower  would  be  musi- 
cians, physicians  or  weavers.  This  sign  was  presided 
over  by  Xochiquetzal,  the  Mexican  Venus  or  Titania, 
and  was  especially  of  good  omen. 

The  sign  of  seven  serpents  was  especially  fortunate 
for  everything,  but  particularly  for  marriages,  and 
the  symbol  two  canes  indicated  long  life.  But  the 
first  sign  of  the  serpent  was  evil  for  it  signified  the 
loss  of  a  limb.  Expert  huntsmen  were  those  born 
under  one  flint,  and  the  fifth  of  the  flint  series  por- 
tended that  a  person  born  under  it  would  be  a  jester. 
If  anyone  had  his  nativity  beneath  the  signs  ruled  by 
Tezcatlipoca  let  him  beware,  for  all  were  unlucky, 
and  false  evidence  given  on  these  days  it  was  impos- 
sible to  rebut.  It  was  also  of  evil  omen  in  war. 

The  sign  one  house  was  unlucky  and  was  under 
the  influence  of  the  dead  witches.  Spies  and  impostors 
were  born  under  some  of  the  signs  of  air,  indeed  there 
is  a  great  sameness  in  the  fortunes  of  many  of  the 
signs,  of  which  it  is  impossible  to  give  an  entire  list  as 
many  of  the  significances  of  the  series  of  260  are 
irretrievably  lost. 

Each  sign  was  held  as  applying  to  a  certain  part 
of  the  body  and  as  having  dominance  over  it.  Says 
the  interpreter  of  the  "  Codex  Vaticanus  "  :  "  The  sign 
of  the  wind  was  assigned  to  the  liver,  the  rose  to  the 
breast,  the  earthquake  to  the  tongue,  the  eagle  to 
the  right  arm,  the  vulture  to  the  right  ear,  the  rabbit 
to  the  left  ear,  the  flint  to  the  teeth,  the  air  to  the 
breath,  the  monkey  to  the  left  arm,  the  cane  to  the 
heart,  the  herb  to  the  bowels,  the  lizard  to  the  womb 
of  women,  the  tiger  to  the  left  foot,  the  serpent  to  the 


male  organ  of  generation,  as  that  from  which  their 
diseases  proceeded  in  their  commencement,  for  in  this 
manner  they  considered  the  serpent  wherever  it 
occurred  as  the  most  ominous  of  all  their  signs.  Even 
still  physicians  continue  to  use  this  figure  when  they 
perform  cures  ;  and  according  to  the  sign  and  hour 
in  which  the  patient  becomes  ill  they  examined 
whether  the  disease  corresponded  with  the  ruling 
sign,  from  which  it  is  plain  that  this  nation  is  not  as 
brutal  as  some  persons  pretend,  since  they  observed 
so  much  method  and  order  in  these  affairs,  and  em- 
ployed the  same  means  as  our  astrologers  and 
physicians  use,  as  this  figure  still  obtains  amongst 
them,  and  may  be  found  in  their  repertories." 

It  is  in  such  passages  as  that  found  in  the  Cronica 
Mexicana  of  Tezozomoc  that  we  find  the  connection 
between  Aztec  "  astrology "  as  observed  in  the 
tonalamatl  or  "  calendar "  and  stellar  astrology 
proper.  In  Chapter  82  of  that  marvellous  book  is 
to  be  found  an  account  of  the  formalities  observed 
at  the  election  of  the  Emperor  Montezuma,  a  record 
of  the  duties  required  from  him  in  his  royal  position. 
Among  other  things  he  was  "  especially  to  make  it 
his  duty  to  rise  at  midnight  (and  to  look  at  the  stars) : 
at  yohualitqul  mamalhuaztli,  as  they  call  '  the  keys  of 
Saint  Peter  '  among  the  stars  in  the  firmament,  at 
the  citlaltlachtli,  the  north  and  its  wheel,  at  the 
tianquiztli,  the  Pleiades,  and  at  the  colotl  ixayac,  the 
constellation  of  the  Scorpion,  which  mark  the  four 
cardinal  points  in  the  sky.  Toward  morning  he  must 
also  carefully  observe  the  constellation  xonecuilli,  the 
'  cross  of  Saint  Jacob,'  which  appears  in  the  southern 
sky  in  the  direction  of  India  and  China  ;  and  he  must 
carefully  observe  the  morning  star,  which  appears  at 
dawn  and  is  called  tlauizcalpan  teuctli." 

These  words  outline  the  scope  of  Mexican  astro- 
nomical knowledge  and  are  corroborated  in  the 



seventh  book  of  the  original  Mexican  text  of  Sahagun's 
great  work,  "  Historia  General,"  preserved  in  the 
Palace  Library,  Madrid,  in  which  the  constellations 
are  represented  by  pictures,  and  among  other  stars, 
the  planet  Venus,  which  had  especial  associations  for 
the  Mexicans,  who  kept  an  unerring  record  of  the 
days  when  it  appeared  and  disappeared.  They 
regarded  the  morning  star  as  connected  with  Quetzal- 
coatl,  the  father  of  all  magic,  and  believed  it  to  have 
a  special  magical  significance.  When  he  left  Mexico, 
according  to  one  legend,  he  immolated  himself  by  fire, 
and  his  heart,  flying  upward  out  of  the  ashes,  became 
the  star  Citlalpol,  or  the  planet  Venus.  In  his  form 
as  that  planet  the  god  was  known  as  Tlauizcalpan 
tecutli.  On  all  days  connected  with  the  signs  of  the 
alligator,  jaguar,  snake,  water,  reed,  stag,  and  move- 
ment the  planet  Venus  had  a  dubious  significance, 
usually  uncanny.  Regarding  its  action  on  some  of 
these  days  an  ancient  story  tells  us  : 

"  And  as  they  (the  ancients,  the  forefathers)  learned. 
When  it  appears  (rises). 
According  to  the  sign  in  which  it  (rises). 
It  strikes  different  classes  of  people  with  its  rays. 
Shoots  them,  casts  its  light  upon  them. 
When  it  appears  in  the  (first)  sign,  *  1  alligator,' 
It  shoots  the  old  men  and  women. 
Also  in  the  (second)  sign,  '  1  jaguar,' 
In  the  (third)  sign,  '  1  stag,' 
In  the  (fourth)  sign,  '  1  flower,' 
It  shoots  the  little  children. 
And  in  the  (fifth)  sign,  '  1  reed,' 
It  shoots  the  kings. 
Also  in  the  (sixth)  sign,  '  1  death,' 
And  in  the  (seventh)  sign,  '  1  rain,' 
It  shoots  the  rain, 
It  will  not  rain ; 
And  in  the  (thirteenth)  sign,  *  1  movement,' 


It  shoots  the  youths  and  maidens  ; 
And  in  the  (seventeenth)  sign,  '  1  water,5 
There  is  universal  drought." 

In  the  Vatican  and  Borgian  Codices  especially  we 
see  representatives  of  these  various  classes  of  people 
struck  by  the  evil  spear  of  the  planetary  god. 

Seler  says  on  this  point :  "It  is  possible  that  we 
have  on  these  pages  simply  an  astrological  speculation 
arising  from  superstitious  fear  of  the  influence  of  the 
light  of  this  powerful  planet.  By  natural  association 
of  ideas  the  rays  of  light  emitted  by  the  sun  or  other 
luminous  bodies  are  imagined  to  be  darts  or  arrows 
which  are  shot  in  all  directions  by  the  luminous  body. 
The  more  the  rays  are  perceived  to  be  productive  of 
discomfort  or  injury,  so  much  the  more  fittingly  does 
this  apply.  In  this  way  the  abstract  noun  miotl  or 
meyotli  with  the  meaning  c  ray  of  light '  is  derived 
from  the  Mexican  word  mill,  '  arrow '  .  .  .  thus 
miotli  is  the  arrow  which  belongs  by  nature  to  a  body 
sending  forth  arrows,  a  luminous  body.  .  .  .  When 
the  planet  appeared  anew  in  the  heavens,  smoke-vents 
and  chimneys  were  stopped  up  lest  the  light  should 
penetrate  into  the  house.  ...  It  is  hardly  possible 
to  see  anything  else  in  these  figures  struck  by  the 
spear  than  augural  speculations  regarding  the  influ- 
ence of  the  light  from  the  planet  suggested  by  the 
initial  signs  of  the  period." 

This,  then,  seems  to  furnish  us  with  direct  proof 
that  at  least  one  planet  was  regarded  as  controlling 
human  affairs,  and  in  all  likelihood  the  twenty  day- 
signs  are  capable  of  being  collated  with  various 
planets  or  stars,  although  this  has  not  yet  been 
effected.  Their  early  calendric  associations  seem, 
indeed,  to  point  to  such  a  conclusion.  The  fact  that 
early  Mexican  myth  lent  to  the  stars  a  demonic  sig- 
nificance scarcely  militates  against  this  view.  Indeed, 
Tezozomoc  says  of  the  Tzitzimime  demons  that  these 


were  "  gods  of  the  signs  and  planets,"  that  is  of  the 
tonalamatl  in  its  astrological  sense. 

That  the  several  planets  had  ominous  and  usually 
disastrous  effects  upon  humanity  is  clear.  Thus  the 
Abbe  Clavigero  tells  us  that  at  the  festival  of  Ome 
acatl,  or  "two  reeds,"  that  of  the  sun-god,  the 
people  remained  in  the  utmost  suspense  and  solici- 
tude, hoping  on  the  one  hand  to  find  from  the  new 
fire  a  new  century  granted  to  mankind,  and  fearing 
on  the  other  hand  the  total  destruction  of  mankind 
if  the  fire  by  divine  interference  should  not  be  per- 
mitted to  kindle.  Husbands  covered  the  faces  of 
their  pregnant  wives  with  the  leaves  of  the  aloe,  and 
shut  them  up  in  granaries,  because  they  were  afraid 
that  they  would  be  converted  into  wild  beasts  and 
would  devour  them.  They  also  covered  the  faces  of 
children  in  that  way,  and  did  not  allow  them  to  sleep, 
to  prevent  their  being  transformed  into  mice. 

The  moon,  Metztli,  on  the  other  hand,  was  regarded 
as  an  active  and  malevolent  wizard  dwelling  in  an 
incandescent  cavern. 

His  influence  upon  mankind  was  occasionally 
benevolent,  as  in  the  case  of  birth,  but  on  the  whole 
was  significant  of  evil  humours  and  emanations. 

Associated  with  the  calendar  was  the  system  by 
which  the  Aztecs  regarded  the  several  points  of  the 
compass,  or  world-directions,  as  having  a  bearing  on 
their  "  astrological  "  ideas.  The  east  was  known  as 
Tlapcopa,  the  north  Mictlampa,  the  west  Ciuatlampa, 
and  the  south  Uitzlampa.  To  these  a  central  or 
sometimes  an  up-and-down  or  "  above-below  "  point 
was  added.  With  the  east  were  associated  all  the 
years  which  took  in  the  cycle-sequence  the  primary 
date  acatl  (reed).  With  the  north  the  tecpatl  (stone 
knife)  years,  with  the  west  the  calli  (house),  and  with 
the  south  the  tochtli  (rabbit)  years.  The  gods  and 
colours  governing  these  were  respectively  Tonatiuh, 


the  sun-god  and  yellow ;  Mictlantecutli,  the  death-god 
and  red  ;  the  corn-goddess  and  blue  ;  and  the  water- 
god  Tlaloc  and  white,  while  Xiuhtecutli,  the  god  of 
the  hearth-fire,  governed  the  central  point. 

The  day-signs  were  divided  as  follows,  according  to 
the  compass  directions  : 

East — cipactli,  acatl,  coatl,  ollin,  otl. 

North — ocelotl,  miquiztli,  tecpatl,  itzcuintli,  eecatl. 

West — mazatl,  quiauitl,  ozomatli,  calli,  quauhtli. 

South — xochitl,  malinalli,  quetzpalin,  cozcaqu- 
auhtli,  tochtli. 

The  eastern  years  were  supposed  to  be  fertile,  the 
north  variable,  the  west  good  for  man  but  evil  for 
vegetation,  and  the  south  years  hot  and  waterless. 

In  Mexican  ritual  and  divination  the  greatest 
attention  was  paid  to  the  compass  directions. 


THE  breakdown  of  the  Maya  and  Mexican 
faiths  was  followed  by  a  phenomenon  so 
curious  that  it  is  well  worth  the  attention 
of  those  students  of  history  and  comparative  religion 
who  are  looking  for  an  illustration  of  what  humanly 
follows  when  an  ancient  faith  is  debarred  from 
popular  practice  and  thrust  into  the  background.  In 
the  case  of  the  Maya  this  resulted  in  the  formation 
of  a  vast  secret  society  known  as  that  of  the  Naguales, 
in  which  the  more  popular  and  primitive  forms  of 
native  religion  took  the  place  of  the  loftier  tenets  of 
the  priesthood.  In  short,  the  idea  of  magic  of  the 
lower  cultus  took  the  place  of  the  higher  wisdom- 
religion  formerly  in  vogue,  and  those  traditional 
notions  born  of  totemism  and  the  concept  of  the 
beast-guardian  which  had  been  suppressed  by  the 
enlightenment  of  the  priestly  caste  came  once  more 
into  practice,  accompanied  by  all  the  horrors  of  black 

The  general  conception  underlying  this  return  to 
primitive  beliefs  is  well,  if  simply,  outlined  by  Herrera 
in  his  "  General  History  "  which  dates  from  1530. 
He  writes  : 

il  The  Devil  deluded  them,  appearing  in  the  shape 
of  a  lion,  or  a  tiger,  or  a  coyote,  a  beast  like  a  wolf, 
or  in  the  shape  of  an  alligator,  a  snake,  or  a  bird, 
which  they  called  naguales,  signifying  keepers  or 


guardians,  and  when  the  bird  died  the  Indian  who 
was  in  league  with  him  died  also,  which  often  hap- 
pened and  was  looked  upon  as  infallible.  The  manner 
of  contracting  this  alliance  was  thus  :  the  Indian 
repaired  to  the  river,  wood,  hill,  or  most  obscure 
place,  where  he  called  upon  the  devils  by  such  names 
as  he  thought  fit,  talked  to  the  rivers,  rocks  or  woods, 
said  he  went  to  weep  that  he  might  have  the  same 
his  predecessors  had,  carrying  a  cock  or  dog  to  sac- 
rifice. In  that  melancholy  fit  he  fell  asleep,  and  either 
in  a  dream  or  waking  saw  some  one  of  the  aforesaid 
birds  or  other  creatures,  whom  he  entreated  to  grant 
him  profit  in  salt,  cacao,  or  any  other  commodity, 
drawing  blood  from  his  own  tongue,  ears,  and  other 
parts  of  his  body,  making  his  contract  at  the  same 
time  with  the  said  creature,  the  which,  either  in  a 
dream  or  waking,  told  him,  '  Such  a  day  you  shall 
go  abroad  a-sporting,  and  I  will  be  the  first  bird  or 
other  animal  you  shall  meet,  and  will  be  your  nagual 
and  companion  at  all  times.'  Whereupon  such  friend- 
ship was  contracted  between  them  that  when  one  of 
them  died  the  other  did  not  survive,  and  they  fancied 
that  he  who  had  no  nagual  could  not  be  rich." 

This,  of  course,  is  the  concept  of  the  guardian 
spirit,  as  found  widely  distributed  throughout  North 
America.  The  circumstances  and  ritual  connected 
with  the  cultus  normally  show  a  period  of  isolation 
at  puberty,  a  long  ceremonial  purification,  an  intent- 
ness  upon  supernatural  communication  and  "  the 
acquisition  of  the  name  and  power  and  song  of  the 
guardian  spirit  in  a  vision."  In  fact,  all  the  phe- 
nomena of  the  early  stages  of  initiation  into  the 
mysteries  as  found  in  the  Old  World,  but  here  com- 
mingled with  individual  totemism,  the  cult  of  the 
animal  protector  or  genius.  The  cult  of  Nagualism, 
according  to  Brinton,  still  "  prevails  widely  to-day  in 
Mexico  and  Central  America,  men  and  women  join 


in  the  dances  in  a  state  of  nudity,  and  the  Christian 
priests  claim  with  probability  that  those  rites  ter- 
minate in  wild  debauches." 

Women  were  pre-eminent  in  the  worship  of  the 
cult.  In  the  chronicles  of  Mexican  Nagualism  it  is 
recorded  that  the  marvellous  power  of  the  adepts  in 
transforming  themselves  into  the  brute  form  of  their 
guardian  spirit  (tonal)  was  first  taught  them  by  a 
mighty  enchantress,  who  herself  could  assume  at  will 
any  one  of  four  forms. 

This  explains  why  in  the  later  revolts  of  these 
tribes,  even  down  to  that  in  Guatemala  in  1885,  we 
find  so  often  that  the  moving  spirit,  the  prompter 
and  leader  of  the  rebellion,  is  some  warrior  woman, 
driven  by  a  divine  energy  to  seek  the  independence 
of  her  tribe  from  the  hated  yoke  of  the  whites.  Such 
was  Maria  Candelaria,  the  heroine  of  the  Tzental 
insurrection  of  1712,  a  girl  of  twenty  summers,  but 
fired  by  an  eloquence  and  a  resolution  that  summoned 
to  her  banners  fifteen  thousand  fighting  men,  and  for 
many  months  bade  defiance  to  the  arms  of  Spain. 
Nor  would  she  then  have  failed  had  it  not  been  for 
cowardice  and  treachery  in  her  own  camp. 

A  popular  illustration  of  Nagualism  is  that  afforded 
by  Francisco  Fuentes  y  Guzman.  In  his  "  History 
of  Guatemala,"  written  about  1690,  the  author  gives 
some  information  regarding  a  sorcerer  who  on  arrest 
was  examined  as  to  the  manner  of  assigning  the 
proper  nagual  to  a  child.  When  informed  of  the  day 
of  its  birth  he  presented  himself  at  the  house  of  the 
parents,  and  taking  the  child  outside,  invoked  the 
demon.  He  then  produced  a  little  calendar  which 
had  against  each  day  a  picture  of  a  certain  animal 
or  object.  Thus  in  the  Nagualist  calendar  for  January 
the  first  day  of  the  month  was  represented  by  a  lion, 
the  second  by  a  snake,  the  eighth  by  a  rabbit,  the 
fourteenth  by  a  toad,  the  nineteenth  by  a  jaguar, 



and  so  on.  The  invocation  over,  the  nagual  of  the 
child  would  appear  under  the  form  of  the  animal  or 
object  set  opposite  its  birthday  in  the  calendar.  The 
sorcerer  then  addressed  certain  prayers  to  the  nagual, 
requesting  it  to  protect  the  child,  and  told  the  mother 
to  take  it  daily  to  the  same  spot,  where  its  nagual 
would  appear  to  it,  and  would  finally  accompany  it 
through  life.  Some  of  the  worshippers  of  this  cult 
had  the  power  of  transforming  themselves  into  the 
nagual.  Thomas  Gage,  an  English  Catholic  who  acted 
as  priest  among  the  Maya  of  Guatemala  about  1630, 
describes  in  his  "  New  Survey  of  the  West  Indies  " 
the  supposed  metamorphosis  of  two  chiefs  of  neigh- 
bouring tribes,  and  the  mortal  combat  in  which  they 
engaged,  which  resulted  in  the  death  of  one  of  them. 

But  Nagualist  power  was  by  no  means  confined  to 
a  single  transformation,  and  was  capable  of  taking 
on  many  and  varied  shapes.  Speaking  of  one  of  the 
great  musician-kings  of  the  Quiche  of  Guatemala,  the 
"  Popol  Vuh,"  a  native  book,  states  that  Gucumatz, 
the  sorcerer-monarch  in  question,  could  transform 
himself  into  a  serpent,  an  eagle,  a  tiger,  and  even  into 
lower  forms  of  life.  Many  of  the  confessions  of  the 
natives  to  the  Catholic  priests  remind  one  forcibly  of 
those  which  were  discovered  by  the  European  witch- 
trials  of  the  sixteenth  and  seventeenth  centuries. 
Thus  an  old  man  in  his  dying  confession  declared 
that  by  diabolical  art  he  had  transformed  himself 
into  his  nagual,  and  a  young  girl  of  twelve  confessed 
that  the  Nagualists  had  transformed  her  into  a  bird, 
and  that  in  one  of  her  nocturnal  flights  she  had  rested 
on  the  roof  of  the  very  house  in  which  the  parish 
priest  resided. 

All  Christian  ceremonies  celebrated  by  the  friars 
were  at  once  annulled  by  the  Nagualist  priesthood. 
If  a  child  were  baptised  with  the  holy  water  it  was 
immediately  carried  to  the  cave  or  secret  meeting- 


place  of  the  Nagualists,  where  the  rite  was  "  reversed  " 
by  the  aid  of  black  magic.  This  was  effected  by  en- 
dowing the  child  with  a  nagual  or  animal  guardian, 
a  totem  protector,  which  was  regarded  as  its  spiritual 
guide  and  mentor,  to  whom  in  all  the  difficulties  and 
perplexities  of  liT  it  must  turn  for  advice  and 

But  shape-shifting  and  witchcraft  were  not  the 
only  magical  resources  of  the  Nagualists.  Their  arts 
were  manifold.  They  could  render  themselves 
invisible  and  walk  unseen  among  their  enemies. 
They  could  transport  themselves  to  distant  places, 
and  returning,  report  what  they  had  witnessed.  Like 
the  fakirs  of  India,  they  could  create  before  the  eyes 
of  the  spectator  rivers,  trees,  houses,  animals,  and 
other  objects.  They  would,  to  all  appearance,  rip 
themselves  open,  cut  a  limb  from  the  body  of  another 
person  and  replace  it,  and  pierce  themselves  with 
knives  without  bleeding.  They  could  handle  venom- 
ous serpents  without  being  bitten,  as  can  their 
representatives  among  the  Zuni  Indians  of  Arizona 
to-day,  cause  mysterious  sounds  in  the  air,  hypnotise 
both  men  and  animals,  and  invoke  spirits  who  would 
instantly  appear.  Of  these  things  the  missionary 
friars  believed  them  fully  capable.  What  wonder, 
then,  that  they  were  regarded  by  the  natives  with  a 
mixture  of  terror  and  respect  ? 

Does  Nagualism  survive  in  Mexico  and  Central 
America  to-day  ?  No  reasonable  doubt  can  be  enter- 
tained that  it  does.  I  give  here  in  the  form  of  a  story 
an  account  of  an  occurrence  which  took  place  in  a 
certain  remote  Mexican  locality  not  very  many  years 
ago.  Naturally,  I  have  had  to  alter  the  names  of 
persons  and  places. 

Browning  lounged  on  the  verandah,  the  last  long 
drink  of  the  stifling  day  untouched  at  his  elbow. 


Conscience  was  having  its  way  with  him.  Beatrice 
would  sail  from  Southampton  in  a  week,  and  he  had 
not  yet  told  Jacinta  that  she  must  go.  He  had  thought 
that  when  the  time  came  it  would  be  easy  enough. 
Such  things  were  done  every  day  in  Soconusco.  But 
what  would  have  been  easy  to  many  men  in  the 
Tropics  he  was  finding  horribly  difficult.  Scruples 
rarely  attacked  him  before  the  event,  but,  later, 
crowded  and  battened  upon  him,  finding  congenial 
soil  in  his  rash  sentimental  heart.  Yes,  it  would  be 
the  deuce  to  do  this  thing  after  two  years.  He 
cursed  weakly  and  looked  drearily  over  the  coffee 
slopes  where  the  trade-wind  rains  had  made  the  dull 
green  of  the  hardwood  trees  glisten  like  the  plumage 
of  rare  birds  in  the  yellow  of  the  tropic  sundown. 

If  he  fondly  believed  that  the  woman  was  all 
unconscious  of  his  intention  he  was  badly  at  fault. 
Vaguely  brown  young  women  with  gazelle  eyes  and 
the  lithe  grace  of  panthers  are  rather  more  amenable 
to  instinct  than  their  white  sisters.  There  had  been 
a  thousand  intimations  of  mood  and  manner  on  his 
part,  and  a  sneering  hint  from  the  major-domo.  At 
first  she  had  accepted  the  news  in  the  fatalistic  spirit 
of  her  race.  Who  could  expect  the  love  of  a  god  with 
chestnut  hair  and  eyes  like  the  noon  sky  to  last  for 
ever  ?  She  had  been  blessed  with  two  years  of  him. 
It  was  strange  that  hope  should  have  visited  her  at 
all.  Something  more  tenacious  than  is  usually  en- 
countered in  brown  minds  urged  her  not  only  to  hope 
but  to  act.  And  that  is  why,  on  the  very  evening  that 
Browning  sat  with  distorted  forehead  on  his  verandah, 
she  drifted  like  a  spirit  in  her  white  cotton  nequen 
through  the  thin  woods  which  curtained  the  Hacienda 
Mozara  to  the  hut  of  Can-ek?  the  ah-kin  or  medicine- 

Central  America  has  long  been  the  home  of  two 
religions,  one  official  and  white,  the  other  quite 


unorthodox  and  brown,  but  none  the  less  very  much 
alive.  The  few  who  know  anything  about  it  call  it 
Nagualism.  After  being  baptized  by  the  padre  the 
brown  baby  is  carried  to  the  ah-kin  or  native  priest, 
who,  by  some  sleight  of  devildom,  nullifies  the  sacred 
power  of  the  holy  water  and  bestows  on  the  child  a 
nagual  or  beast-guardian,  a  spiritual  guide  and  mentor 
in  animal  shape,  who  accompanies  him  through  life, 
and  in  whose  shape  he  can  disguise  himself.  Jacinta 
had  so  far  been  without  this  dark  benefit.  Her 
parents  had  been  pious  followers  of  the  white  man's 
faith,  for  her  father  had  strenuously  believed  himself 
to  be  white,  and  cherished  certain  proofs  that  he  was 
not  mistaken.  But  in  his  daughter  the  mother-race 
was  triumphant. 

Can-ek  was  at  home.  He  had  known  for  some  time 
that  Jacinta  would  come  to  him  and  he  was  prepared. 
He  was  very  dirty,  and  his  bee-hive  hut  was  the  last 
thing  in  native  squalor.  The  pungent  smell  of  fresh 
peyotl  arose  from  the  wooden  bowls,  and  strings  of 
dried  herbs,  alligators'  tongues,  and  stuffed  vampire 
bats  lent  that  professional  touch  of  mystery  on  which 
practitioners  in  all  times  and  climes  have  relied  to 
impress  the  lay  mind.  Can-ek  did  not  believe  in 
these,  but  he  knew  his  clients  did.  He  listened  to 
what  Jacinta  had  to  say  with  all  the  immobility  of 
the  specialist. 

"  You  have  not  been  of  us,"  he  said  when  she  had 
done  at  last,  "  yet  you  desire  me  to  help  you.  You 
know  well  that  we  help  only  those  who  believe  in  us." 

"  Would  I  have  come  to  you  did  I  not  believe  ? 
Jacinta  asked. 

"  That  is  a  woman's  answer,"  grunted  Can-ek. 
"  Do  not  make  me  such  replies.  If  you  believe,  you 
must  prove  it.  You  must  become  one  of  us." 

"  And  if  I  do  so,  Ah-kin  ?  " 

"  Then  help  will  be  forthcoming.     But  first  the 


water  of  the  white  priests  that  was  shed  on  your  face 
must  be  washed  away,  and  you  must  be  made  one 
with  the  nagual." 

"  It  is  enough,"  said  Jacinta,  "  I  agree." 

I  cannot  say  precisely  what  happened  in  the  bee- 
hive hut  because  I  do  not  know.  No  white  man 
knows.  But  when  Jacinta  left  it  half  an  hour  later 
her  gazelle  eyes  seemed  to  have  grown  larger,  and  she 
glanced  furtively  among  the  tree-trunks  where  the 
night  had  now  drooped  in  blue  shadow.  Once  or 
twice  she  cowered  in  the  rank  undergrowth  and 
moaned.  And  she  hugged  something  in  the  bosom 
of  her  dress. 

Three  days  later  Browning  was  aware  of  an  unusual 
flavour  in  his  morning  coffee.  Being  a  good  judge  of 
coffee,  he  sniffed  it,  and  told  the  boy  to  take  it  away 
and  bring  some  more.  And  Jacinta,  hanging  upon 
him  that  evening,  was  uneasily  aware  by  his  clouded 
brow  and  moody  looks  that  the  love-philtre  of  the 
ah-kin  had  not  proved  efficacious.  Her  heart  sank, 
and  she  muttered  the  strange  words  Can-ek  had  taught 
her.  There  was  a  rustling  sound  in  the  tall  grass 
beneath  the  eucalyptus  trees,  and  Browning  started. 

"  Cougar !  "  he  whispered,  pulling  out  his  gun. 
"  Fancy  him  venturing  this  length.  Brute  must  be 

"  Don't  shoot !  "  almost  screamed  Jacinta.  "  Oh, 
Mother  of  God,  Don  Jorge,  don't  shoot !  " 

"  What  on  earth  for  ?  "  he  asked  almost  sulkily. 
"  Some  of  your  beastly  superstitions,  I  suppose. 
Think  if  I  shoot  the  beast  I'll  kill  someone's  double, 
you  little  fool  ?  " 

She  clutched  at  his  arm,  pulling  down  the  menacing 
barrel,  and  unclasped  his  fingers  from  the  stock.  The 
rustling  sound  passed  like  a  breeze  among  the  grass. 

"  Lord,  child,  you're  almost  white,"  he  laughed 
uneasily.  "  If  I  hadn't  known  you  were  a  Christiano 


I'd  have  thought  you  were  one  of  those — what  d'ye 
call  them  ? — it's  some  meztizo  name  for  devilry, 
anyhow.  Come  on  into  the  house.  You  and  I  have 
got  to  talk  to-night,  Jacinta.  Now,  don't  cut  up 
rough.  It's  all  over,  but  I'll  let  you  down  easy  as 
easy.  You'll  see  .  .  ." 

The  incident  had  stirred  him  to  the  necessity  for  a 
prompt  straightening  out  of  this  entanglement.  Half 
an  hour  later  the  words  of  doom  had  been  spoken. 
It  had  been  settled  that  she  was  to  go  in  the  morning 
— not  unprovided  for,  but  go  she  must.  Browning 
had  anticipated  a  scene.  But  she  took  the  verdict 
quietly — very  quietly. 

Next  day  she  went,  as  had  been  ordained.  There 
was  a  loose  handshake,  a  perfunctory  peck  on  the 
warm  brown  cheek,  and  that  was  all.  She  had  told 
him  that  she  would  go  to  her  sister  in  San  Thomas. 
But  only  half  a  mile  down  the  narrow  white  road  she 
turned  abruptly  and  dived  like  a  wild  thing  into  the 
woods.  And  as  she  waded  through  the  tall  grass 
something  unseen  rustled  cat-like  not  far  off,  keeping 
pace  with  her  steps. 

About  a  month  later  he  met  Beatrice  at  Vera  Cruz, 
married  her  there  at  the  British  Consul's,  and  took 
her  home  to  Tampila. 

All  traces  of  Jacinta  had  carefully  been  removed, 
indeed  the  memory  of  her  had  faded  out  of  Brown- 
ing's mind  nearly  a  fortnight  before,  which  goes  to 
show  that  people  who  feel  very  keenly  do  not,  as  a 
rule,  suffer  very  long.  Beatrice  had  made  up  her 
mind  to  like  Tampila,  and  she  succeeded.  At  first, 
doubtless,  she  felt  cut  off  from  her  kind,  caught  very 
definitely  in  an  environment  of  utter  strangeness. 
It  was  all  so  unlike  what  she  had  expected  it  to  be. 
She  had  thought  of  Soconusco  in  terms  of  Malay, 
where  a  married  sister  had  settled.  The  life  was  idle 
and  she  enjoyed  it,  the  fierce  dry  days,  the  enveloping 


odour  of  coffee-dust,  the  long  rides  with  her  husband 
through  the  rich  plantations  and  the  encircling  woods 
with  their  frequent  vestiges  of  a  ruined  past,  crumbling 
temples  and  carven  pillars,  a  memory  of  civilizations 
eaten  up  with  tropical  luxuriance. 

Then,  as  she  came  to  know  the  country  around 
Tampila,  Beatrice  insensibly  formed  the  habit  of 
taking  long  lonely  rides  in  the  vicinity.  At  home 
she  had  almost  lived  in  the  saddle,  and  her  free  life 
in  lonely  Westmoreland  had  made  her  contemptuous 
of  the  dangers  which  might  lurk  in  such  solitary 
canters.  As  the  weeks  passed  her  excursions  took  a 
larger  compass.  The  unfamiliar  and  extraordinary 
environment  in  which  she  found  herself  tempted  the 
spirit  of  exploration  which  had  always  stirred  her, 
and  which  she  had  hitherto  found  no  way  of  satisfy- 
ing. The  white  winding  roads,  the  dark  avenues  of 
the  forest  fringes,  the  dry,  keen  turf  at  the  base  of 
the  foot-hills,  the  warm  still  fragrance  of  the  tropic 
afternoons,  jewelled  with  tiny,  brilliant  birds,  painted 
butterflies,  and  the  wonder  of  exotic  flowers  made  it 
impossible  for  her  to  remain  in  the  stuffy  air  of  the 
hacienda  living-room. 

At  first  Browning  had  gravely  warned  her  of  the 
risks  she  ran.  Jaguars  and  cougars,  he  told  her,  were 
not  infrequent  in  the  neighbourhood,  and  poisonous 
plants  which  cast  a  deadly  pollen  took  toll  of  many 
native  lives.  A  local  banditti  made  occasional  and 
half-hearted  efforts  at  a  hold-up.  But  Beatrice 
seemed  to  care  for  none  of  these  things.  Besides, 
was  she  not  armed  ?  In  vain  her  husband  pointed  out 
that  a  revolver  which  might  well  have  been  pur- 
chased at  a  Bond  Street  jeweller's  could  scarcely  be 
regarded  as  an  effective  weapon.  At  last,  really 
alarmed  at  the  wide  circuits  she  made,  he  suggested 
that  one  of  the  peons  should  accompany  her,  and  to 
his  insistence  on  this  she  had  no  option  but  to  agree. 


Pedro,  a  nephew  of  the  major-domo,  was  told  off  as  a 
mounted  bodyguard. 

Beatrice  did  her  best  to  ignore  his  presence,  but 
had  to  admit  that  on  more  than  one  occasion  it  had 
been  very  welcome.  Of  late  she  had  been  dimly 
conscious  of  a  feeling  that  she  was  overlooked,  spied 
upon,  and  followed.  Had  she  been  a  native  of  the 
region  she  would  have  told  herself  that  she  was  being 
stalked.  There  was  always  the  sensation  of  nearness, 
that  inexplicable  instinct  which  registers  human  or 
animal  proximity  so  unerringly. 

At  times  this  sense  was  accompanied  by  more 
material  manifestations — by  sounds  like  the  passing 
of  the  breeze  among  the  long  grass,  or  the  patter  of 
stealthy  steps  on  the  dry  soil.  Even  on  the  verges 
of  the  foot-hills  where  there  were  few  trees  to  conceal 
man  or  beast  it  could  at  times  be  heard.  When 
Beatrice  drew  rein  and  allowed  her  mount  to  proceed 
at  a  walk  it  died  down  to  the  shadow  of  a  sound. 
And  once  and  again  there  was  sight  of  a  long  yellow 
body  dappled  with  black  stars  passing  at  dusk 
between  the  slender  trunks  of  the  hardwood  trees  in 
the  clearing  near  the  hacienda. 

Beatrice  had  heard  that  certain  wild  animals  fre- 
quently stalked  their  prey  for  days  before  making 
the  final  spring,  as  conscientiously  and  scientifically 
indeed  as  a  'rhino  hunter  takes  pains  to  make  himself 
acquainted  with  the  habits  of  his  quarry  before 
seizing  the  opportune  moment  for  its  dispatch.  But 
she  was  not  greatly  concerned,  for  had  Pedro  not  his 
rifle,  and  had  she  not  her  silver-mounted  pop-gun  ? 
As  most  very  British  people  would  have  done,  she 
simply  refused  to  let  the  matter  get  on  her  nerves,  and 
ignored  it  with  all  the  sang-froid  of  her  island. 
Whether  Pedro  had  noticed  it  or  not,  she  disdained 
to  inquire — and  he  disdained  to  mention.  We  are  not 
the  only  self-contained  people  on  this  queer  star. 


Nevertheless  the  rides  continued.  There  certainly 
was  misgiving,  but  Beatrice  held  on.  She  would  not 
speak  of  her  private  fears  to  Browning — her  training 
did  not  allow  of  that.  So  she  cantered  out  every 
afternoon  with  Pedro  a  lazy  second,  brushing  the 
verge  of  the  woods  and  galloping  the  long  stretches 
of  the  foot-hill  slopes.  On  the  day  it  happened  at  last 
she  had  ridden  even  farther  than  usual  and  had  gone 
on  at  a  bridle-pace  to  a  little  old  hacienda  in  the  hills, 
where  she  had  tea  and  exchanged  her  text-book 
Castilian  for  the  quick-fire  Spanish  of  a  humorous 
but  stately  Senora  of  eighty  years,  who  had  regarded 
her  much  as  she  might  have  regarded  a  wonlan  from 
Mars,  so  alien  were  her  ideas  to  those  of  eight  decades 
of  seclusion.  Two  hours  of  this  strange  intercourse 
brought  evening,  and  in  some  haste  at  the  thought 
of  the  brief  Soconuscan  twilight  Beatrice  remounted 
and  galloped  off  as  quickly  as  her  English  saddle 
would  allow  her. 

So  fast  did  she  ride  that  she  was  almost  home 
before  she  noticed  that  Pedro  did  not  follow.  It  was 
on  the  fringe  of  woodland  not  half  a  mile  from  the 
hacienda  that  the  beast  sprang  at  last,  a  yellow  streak 
of  vindictive  fury  in  the  dingy  gold  of  sunset — sprang 
high  over  the  horse's  withers  at  her  throat.  Even  so 
she  was  prepared,  the  tiny  revolver  spat  straight  into 
the  grinning  open  jaws,  and  the  mottled  shape  fell 
noiselessly  back  into  the  long  grass.  With  a  fierce 
thrust  of  the  spur  Beatrice  drove  her  mount  forward. 
Now  that  all  was  over  she  was  panic-stricken,  and 
galloped  wildly  as  if  pursued.  As  she  rushed  the 
bend  she  was  aware  of  a  horseman  coming  swiftly 
towards  her.  It  was  her  husband. 

"  Hallo  ! "  he  cried,  "I've  had  the  wind  up  properly. 
Where  on  earth  have  you  been  ?  Was  that  your 
shot  just  now  ?  "  Then,  as  he  saw  her  face  in  the 
gathering  darkness,  "  My  God,  child,  what's  wrong  ?  " 


"  Yes,"  she  was  breathing  hard,  "  a  jaguar,  I  shot 
it,  and  killed  it,  I  think.  But  I  was  frightened  and 
simply  couldn't  stay  to  make  sure." 

"  I  should  think  not,"  he  laughed,  relieved.  "  Get 
in  at  once,  I'll  ride  on  a  bit  and  see  if  you  bagged  it. 
Take  your  time.  No  danger  now." 

She  trotted  steadily  away  into  the  eucalyptus 
shadows,  and  Browning  hastened  forward.  It  was 
almost  dark  now,  and  he  could  just  see  Pedro,  who 
had  suddenly  appeared  as  if  from  nowhere,  bending 
over  something  which  lay  in  the  long  grass.  As 
Browning  came  up  with  the  meztizo  the  man  drew 
himself  erect,  but  said  nothing. 

"Is  it  a  jaguar,  Pedro  ?  "  he  asked  casually  as  he 
dismounted.  But  Pedro  did  not  reply.  Browning 
peered  through  the  darkness,  where  a  crumpled  shape 
made  a  vague  white  patch  among  the  green.  Then 
he  stumbled  backwards  with  a  cry  like  a  wounded 
man,  for  he  had  looked  upon  the  dead  face  of  Jacinta  ! 


WHEN  the  rainbow-coloured  records  of 
aboriginal  America  were  given  to  that 
fire  which  was  no  brighter  than  them- 
selves, when  the  flame-like  manuscripts  of  Mexico 
dissolved  in  living  flame,  an  art  and  tradition  fan- 
tastically and  remotely  beautiful  were  consumed  on 
the  pyre  of  human  superstition  and  intolerance. 
Mystical  secrets,  occult  wisdom  expired  in  the  smoke 
of  that  holocaust,  along  with  a  delicate  elfin  gracious- 
ness,  a  rich  and  grotesque  imagery,  and  a  kaleido- 
scopic page  of  history  was  deliberately  torn  out  of 
human  record  and  almost  irretrievably  lost.  Fantasy 
was  conquered  by  fanaticism,  the  bizarre  by  bigotry, 
for  the  glowing  chronicles  in  which  the  Aztecs  had 
for  generations  taken  a  strange  and  mystical  delight 
were  to  the  conquering  Spaniards  only  "  the  picture- 
books  of  the  devil." 

But  a  civilization  so  brilliant  and  complex  as  that 
of  Tropical  America  was  not  without  its  resources, 
and  as  displaying  a  salient  and  peculiar  phase  of 
human  development  its  literature  might  not  so  easily 
be  quenched.  When  Archbishop  Zumarraga  decreed 
the  wholesale  destruction  of  its  chronicles  and  sacred 
writings  he  could,  of  course,  apply  his  ukase  only  to 
the  royal  libraries  and  to  such  collections  as  his  agents 
were  able  to  seize  upon.  Many  examples  of  Aztec 
literary  art  survived.  But  for  generations  these  were 



carefully  concealed  by  their  pious  owners,  or  else 
discovered  and  collected  by  more  enlightened  Euro- 
peans, who  carried  them  westward  to  enrich  the 
libraries  of  the  Old  World.  Of  these  poor  waifs  and 
strays  some  forty  odd  survive,  lying  like  dead  flowers 
on  the  borders  of  the  world's  garden  of  literature, 
unheeded,  save  by  eyes  sympathetic  to  their  plaintive 

The  history  and  adventures  of  many  of  these 
strange  books,  whose  writers  were  also  painters,  are 
among  the  greatest  romances  of  literature.  It  was 
frequently  their  fate  to  fall  into  the  hands  of  those 
who,  utterly  ignorant  of  their  origin  and  significance, 
took  them  for  nursery  books,  the  painted  fables  of 
fairy-tale.  Others  rotted  in  Continental  libraries 
until,  through  the  action  of  damp  or  the  attacks  of 
vermin,  only  their  broader  details  might  be  descried 
unless  by  the  most  painstaking  scholarship.  But, 
little  by  little,  and  after  centuries  of  application 
almost  unexampled  in  the  records  of  research,  their 
ultimate  secrets  have  been  probed  and  they  are  no 
longer  regarded  as  meaningless  daubs  of  barbaric 
eccentricity,  but  have  come  into  their  own  as  among 
the  most  precious  and  significant  of  those  documents 
which  illustrate  the  development  of  literary  processes. 

In  general  appearance  these  Aztec  manuscripts  are 
far  removed  from  the  European  idea  of  the  book,  or 
even  from  that  of  the  Oriental  manuscript.  They 
consist  of  symbolic  paintings  executed  upon  agave 
paper,  leather  or  cotton,  and  are  usually  folded  in 
"  pages  "  which  open  out  on  the  principle  of  a  screen. 
Taking  that  which  is,  perhaps,  most  typical  of  all  as 
a  general  example,  the  "  Codex  Fejervary-Mayer,"  we 
find  its  length  to  be  about  sixteen  feet  and  its  breadth 
about  seven  inches.  The  general  effect  is  that  of  a 
dwarf  fire-screen,  somewhat  extended,  perhaps, 
painted  in  the  brilliant  colours  of  the  setting  sun,  as 


behoves  a  manuscript  of  the  West,  and  displaying  a 
seemingly  inextricable  symbolism.  At  first  sight  the 
pages  present  such  a  riot  of  coloured  confusion  that 
it  is  only  after  considerable  practice  and  acquaintance 
that  the  emblems  which  they  contain  can  be  separated 
visually  and  reduced  to  individual  coherence. 

The  Mexican  manuscripts,  or  "  papyri,"  as  some 
writers  have  named  them,  although  the  words  pintura 
and  lienza  are  more  frequently  used  by  experts  to 
describe  them,  I  have  divided  into  two  classes : 
those  which  deal  with  mythological  and  astrological 
matters,  and  those  which  represent  either  historical 
narratives  or  fictional  writings.  The  first  class  I  have 
again  subdivided  into  "  Interpretative "  Codices, 
the  "  Codex  Borgia"  group,  and  a  third  group  which 
I  have  labelled  "  Unclassified."  The  Interpretative 
Codices  are  those  which  were  painted  either  by  native 
scribes  under  the  superintendence  of  Spanish  priests 
of  experience  in  Mexican  affairs  or  by  such  priests 
themselves  who  appended  to  them  the  lengthy  inter- 
pretations from  which  they  take  their  name.  The 
Borgia  group  is  made  up  of  a  number  of  codices 
painted  by  native  scribes,  and  the  several  manuscripts 
composing  it  obviously  possessed  a  common  area  of 
origin.  The  Unclassified  Codices  hail  from  various 
Mexican  areas  and  their  contents  differ  considerably 
from  those  of  the  other  groups. 

The  manner  in  which  these  manuscripts  reached 
Europe  is  obscure,  but  some  of  them  have  passed 
through  extraordinary  vicissitudes  since  their  arrival 
in  the  Old  World.  None  of  them,  perhaps,  has  sur- 
vived circumstances  of  such  imminent  peril  as  the 
"  Codex  Borgia,"  by  far  the  most  important  of  them 
all.  It  was  bequeathed  by  the  nephew  of  Cardinal 
Borgia  to  the  Library  of  the  Congregation  of  Propa- 
ganda at  Rome,  in  the  Ethnographical  Section  of  which 
it  is  still  preserved.  Formerly  it  belonged  to  the  Gius- 


tiniani  family  of  Venice,  to  whom,  probably,  it  was 
handed  down  by  some  seafaring  ancestor.  But  it  was 
so  greatly  neglected  that  it  fell  into  the  hands  of  the 
children  of  some  of  their  household  servants,  who,  as 
children  will,  after  deriving  all  the  amusement  they 
could  out  of  it  as  a  nursery  book,  made  several 
attempts  to  burn  it.  But  the  tough  deer-skin  on 
which  it  is  painted  withstood  the  fire,  the  marks  of 
which,  however,  remain  on  its  edges.  It  was  rescued 
by  someone  who  seems  to  have  had  an  inkling  of  its 
value,  and  soon  afterwards  passed  into  the  possession 
of  the  Borgias,  who,  as  literary  cognoscenti,  would 
naturally  appreciate  its  true  significance. 

If  we  examine  this  magnificent  codex,  by  far  the 
finest  example  of  native  Aztec  work  extant,  we  find 
that  the  first  few  sheets  contain  the  astrological 
calendar  divided  into  groups  of  days  by  the  simple 
device  of  using  the  symbol  of  a  black  footprint  as  a 
point  or  colon.  The  various  days  are  represented  by 
such  symbols  as  a  monkey's  head,  a  jaguar,  a  flower, 
and  so  forth,  as  explained  in  the  chapter  on  Astrology. 
Of  these  there  are  twenty,  for  the  Aztec  ritual  month 
consisted  of  twenty  days,  the  period  betwixt  the 
waxing  and  waning  of  the  moon.  These  signs  were 
repeated  thirteen  times,  to  make  up  the  content  of 
the  260  days  of  the  tonalamatl,  or  Book  of  Fate,  and 
were  again  subdivided  into  weeks  of  thirteen  days 
each.  Some  of  the  signs  were  auspicious,  others  were 
distinctly  unlucky,  and  the  tonalamatl  or  calendar 
was  thus  capable  of  being  used  as  a  book  of  astrology, 
or  rather  of  augury,  from  which  the  fortunes  of  a 
person  born  on  any  given  day,  or  the  success  of  an 
act  performed  on  that  date,  might  be  augured. 

But  the  "  Codex  Borgia  "  is  principally  concerned 
with  the  gods,  their  attributes,  costume,  and  signifi- 
cance. In  its  pages  we  encounter  the  terrible  Tezcat- 
lipoca,  the  deity  of  sacrifice  and  justice,  the  dread 


recorder  and  chastiser  of  sin,  the  beautiful  sun-god 
Tonatiuh,  with  the  painted  myth  of  his  passage 
through  the  heavens  from  morning  to  night,  the  pious 
magician  and  priest  Quetzalcoatl,  the  fertile  maize- 
goddess,  and  the  myth  of  the  planet  Venus,  which 
occupies  seventeen  vignettes,  and  illustrates  the 
magical  dangers  to  which  both  kings  and  commonalty 
are  liable  at  the  hands  of  this  vindictive  genius,  who, 
in  Mexican  mythology,  is  a  male.  Four  folios  are 
devoted  to  the  loves  of  the  luxurious  Xochiquetzal, 
who  may  be  called  the  Fairy  Queen  of  Mexico,  and 
the  "  book  "  concludes  with  pages  dedicated  to  the 
gods  of  pleasure  and  procreation  and  the  hovering 
and  ever-watchful  deities  of  death  and  sacrifice. 

In  many  cases  it  has  been  only  after  long  considera- 
tion and  comparison  with  native-written  accounts 
and  by  dint  of  the  most  ingenious  and  involved 
reasoning  that  the  weird  and  uncanny  gestures  and 
actions  of  the  deities  represented  have  been  duly 
explained  and  the  intricate  symbolism  which  sur- 
rounds them  unriddled.  Indeed,  this  task  alone  has 
certainly  equalled  in  difficulty  and  perplexity  that 
presented  by  the  solution  of  the  hieroglyphic  systems 
of  Egypt.  But  whereas  Egyptology  had  its  Rosetta 
Stone,  Mexican  scholars  were  without  such  an  aid  to 
enlightenment,  so  far  as  these  manuscripts  were 
concerned.  And  are  they  accompanied  by  anything 
in  the  nature  of  actual  script  ?  They  are.  Here  and 
there  are  to  be  found  in  their  pages  symbols  which, 
when  read  together  in  the  manner  of  a  rebus,  supply 
us  with  names.  But  these  are  far  more  frequently 
encountered  in  such  of  the  paintings  as  deal  with 
tribute  or  legal  conveyances  of  land.  The  name  of 
King  Ixcoatl,  for  instance,  is  represented  by  the 
picture  of  a  serpent  (coatl),  pierced  by  flint  knives 
(iztli) ;  and  that  of  Motequauhzoma  (Montezuma)  by 
a  mouse-trap  (montli),  an  eagle  (quauhtli),  a  lancet 



(zo),  and  a  hand  (maitl).  The  phonetic  values  em- 
ployed by  the  scribes  varied  exceedingly,  and  they 
certainly  conveyed  their  ideas  more  by  sketch  than 

A  piece  of  Nahua  literature,  the  disappearance  of 
which  is  surrounded  by  circumstances  of  the  deepest 
mystery,  is  the  Teo-Amoxtll,  or  "  Divine  Book," 
which  is  alleged  by  certain  chroniclers  to  be  the  work 
of  the  ancient  Toltecs.  Ixtlilxochitl,  a  native  Mexican 
author,  states  that  it  was  written  by  a  Tezcucan  wise 
man  or  wizard,  one  Huematzin,  or  "  Lord  of  the  Great 
Hand,"  about  the  end  of  the  seventh  century,  and 
that  it  described  the  pilgrimage  of  the  Aztecs  from 
Asia,  their  laws,  manners,  customs,  religion,  arts,  and 
magic.  In  1838  the  Baron  de  Waldeck  stated  in  his 
"  Voyage  Pittoresque  "  that  he  had  it  in  his  possession, 
and  the  Abbe  Brasseur  de  Bourbourg  identified  it 
with  the  "Maya  Dresden  Codex"  and  other  native 
manuscripts.  Bustamante  also  states  that  the  native 
chroniclers  had  a  copy  in  their  possession  at  the  time 
of  the  fall  of  Mexico.  But  these  appear  to  be  mere 
surmises,  and  it  seems  unlikely  that  the  Teo-Amoxtli 
was  ever  seen  by  a  European. 

The  "  Codex  Fejervary-Mayer,"  or  at  least  one  side 
of  it,  is  known  to  Mexican  specialists  as  "  the  Wizards' 
Manual."  Its  origin  is  unknown,  and  it  is  the  property 
of  the  Liverpool  Public  Museums,  to  which  it  was 
bequeathed  by  a  Mr.  Joseph  Mayer  in  1867.  One  side 
of  this  manuscript  is  generally  alluded  to  as  the 
"  day  "  or  "  priests'  "  side,  and  the  other  as  the 
"  night  "  or  "  wizards'  "  side,  as  it  deals  with  the 
lore  of  darkness,  sorcery,  and  the  occult.  The  whole 
is  divided  into  forty-four  sheets. 

Let  us  examine  these  passages  devoted  to  arcane 
matters  : 

Sheet  1  represents  the  five  regions  of  the  world  and 
their  presiding  deities,  and  the  four  quarters  of  the 



tonalamatl,  or  "  Book  of  Fate  "  as  well  as  the  nine 
lords  of  the  night,  in  a  direction  opposite  to  their 
usual  sequence.  The  gods  governing  the  five  regions 
in  this  sheet  are  : 

Centre — Xiuhtecutli,  the  fire-god. 

East — Mixcoatl,   god   of  the   chase  ;     Tlaloc,   the 

North — Itztli,  the  stone-knife  god  ;  Xochipilli,  god 

of  flowers  and  games. 
West — Iztac   Tezcatlipoca   (the   white   or  fruitful 

Tezcatlipoca) ;   Quetzalcoatl,  the  wind-god. 
South — Macuilxochitl,  god  of  pleasure  ;   Xipe,  god 

of  sacrifice. 

Sheets  2-4  deal  with  the  nine  lords  of  the  night 

Sheets  5-14. — In  these  sheets  are  depicted  the  gods 
of  the  five  regions  in  a  different  sequence  from  that 
shown  in  sheet  1,  that  is,  the  deities  represented  pose 
as  patrons  of  the  reversal  of  things,  otherwise  of  the 
Black  Art.  They  are  : 

Centre — Tezcatlipoca  ;  Iztac  Mixcoatl. 
South — Xopilli ;  Xochiquetzal. 
West — Tlaltecutli ;  Chantico. 
North— Centeotl ;  Xolotl. 
East — Tlauizcalpantecutli ;  Patecatl. 

These  gods  introduce  a  series  of  pages  (sheets  15-18) 
which  deal  with  sorcery  and  occult  lore,  especially 
with  the  subject  of  death  by  magic. 

Sheets  38-43  (lower  half). — The  six  earthly  regions 
are  symbolized  in  these  sheets.  A  tonalamatl  resem- 
bling that  just  described  is  shown,  and  in  each  picture 
the  earth-demon  with  a  head  like  that  of  a  badger  is 
depicted.  The  sequence  is  probably  East,  North, 
West,  South,  Above-Below. 

Sheets  41-42. — According  to  Seler,  these  show  the 


four  forms  of  the  god  of  the  planet  Venus  in  his  rela- 
tion to  the  cardinal  points.  In  the  eastern  section 
the  bat-god  is  depicted  ;  in  the  northern,  Mixcoatl ; 
in  the  western,  Xochipilli ;  and  in  the  southern  and 
last,  the  eagle. 

Sheet  43  once  more  depicts  the  five  regions  of  the 
universe,  which  here  take  the  form  of  a  crossway 
showing  the  cardinal  points  and  a  double  manual 
indicator  for  the  Above  and  Below  regions. 

Sheet  44  represents  Tezcatlipoca  as  a  wizard, 
surrounded  by  the  twenty  "  weeks  "  of  the  tonalamatl. 

If  we  seek  light  on  these  magical  pages  we  find  that 
Sheet  1  depicts  the  influence  of  the  nine  lords  of  the 
night  or  the  five  quarters  of  the  world.  Xuihtecutli, 
lord  of  fire,  rules  the  centre,  that  is  the  hearth  of  the 
world,  for  the  hearth  in  Mexico  usually  occupied  the 
centre  of  the  native  dwelling.  Mixcoatl,  god  of  the 
chase,  rules  the  east,  the  direction  of  the  rising  sun. 
He  was  s  the  Toltec  Abraham,  or  patriarch,  and  sym- 
bolized wisdom  and  knowledge.  Tlaloc,  the  rain-god, 
accompanies  him,  bringing  the  beneficent  showers 
which  caused  growth  and  prosperity.  These  gods 
are  of  good  omen. 

But  from  the  dreadful  north,  the  House  of  Fear  in 
Mexico,  descend  Itztli,  god  of  death  and  the  stone 
knife  of  sacrifice.  As  a  mitigating  influence  he  is 
accompanied  by  Xochipilli,  the  god  of  pleasure,  so 
that  this  world-direction  was  not  regarded  as  alto- 
gether ominous  of  evil.  The  west  quarter  takes 
Tezcatlipoca,  in  his  white  or  fruitful  form,  a  benefi- 
cent side  of  him,  and  Quetzalcoatl,  always  a  good 
sign.  The  south  holds  the  picture  of  Macuilxochitl, 
a  pleasure  deity,  but  is  darkened  by  the  figure  of 
the  ghastly  Xipe,  Lord  of  Sacrifice,  in  his  dress  of 
human  skins.  These  beings  ruled  the  fortunes  of  the 
several  earth-regions  or  compass-directions  over 
which  they  presided. 


The  Lords  of  the  Night  Hours  who  appear  in  sheets 
2-4  have  been  dealt  with  in  the  chapter  on  Astrology. 

In  sheets  5-14  the  gods  of  the  five  regions  are  shown 
in  reversed  sequence.  Thus  in  the  centre  region  stand 
Tezcatlipoca,  the  god  of  vengeance,  showing  that  here 
he  governs  the  heart  of  things.  With  him  is  Mixcoatl 
in  his  "  white  "  character  as  a  mitigating  influence. 
The  South  is  ruled  by  Xopilli  and  Xochiquetzal, 
both  gods  of  pleasure,  so  that  it  is  especially  of  good 
omen  in  this  place.  The  West,  with  Tlaltecutli  and 
Chantico,  is  not  particularly  fortunate,  as  being  under 
the  influence  of  rain  in  the  evil  sense,  the  deluge  of 
fire  which  fell  from  heaven  at  the  end  of  the  water- 
sun  age.  Chantico,  moreover,  represents  the  volcanic 
fire  imprisoned  in  the  centre  of  the  earth,  so  that  he 
has  a  plutonic  and  therefore  a  sinister  significance  as 
a  tonalamatl  figure.  As  the  North  is  governed  by 
Centeotl  and  Xolotl,  it  is  favourable  and  fruitful  of 
good.  The  East  has  Tlaaizcalpantecutli,  a  sacrificial 
god,  and  Patecatl,  a  drink  deity,  usually  an  unfortu- 
nate symbol,  therefore  it  can  scarcely  be  said  to  be  of 
happy  auspices.  It  is  likely  that  this  sequence  repre- 
sents the  five  regions  as  used  astrologically  for  the 
night  hours,  whereas  the  former  were  similarly  em- 
ployed by  the  augurs  during  the  day. 

Sheets  41-42  hold  the  bad  influence  of  the  bat-god, 
which  is,  however,  mitigated  by  the  cheerful  presence 
of  the  god  of  sport  and  by  the  wisdom  of  Mixcoatl. 
Sheet  43  is  indicative  of  the  witches'  meeting-place, 
the  cross-roads  of  the  terrible  Ciuateteo,  and  shows  the 
downward  terrestrial  influence  in  conjunction  with 
that  from  the  above-world. 

There  is  no  question  that  the  "  books  "  of  ancient 
Mexico  which  dealt  with  sorcery  were  quite  as  much 
in  demand  by  the  naualli  or  wizard  class  as  were  the 
grimoires  of  the  Middle  Ages  by  the  sorcerers  of  that 
era.  But  they  were  more  mnemonic  than  explanatory, 


that  is,  they  held  only  the  hints  and  outlines  of  magical 
knowledge  and  procedure  rather  than  a  full  exposition 
of  them.  It  could  scarcely  be  expected  that  such  a 
system  of  writing  and  symbolism  as  the  Mexicans 
possessed  could  have  achieved  more  than  such  a 
sketch  of  any  department  of  knowledge,  and  the 
fanaticism  of  the  Spanish  conquerors  has  spared  us 
merely  a  fraction  of  that. 

Before  undertaking  a  magical  act  the  naualli  con- 
sulted his  tonalamatl  and  satisfied  himself  that  the 
astrological  omens  were  favourable.  He  then  applied 
himself  to  the  study  of  the  ritual  procedure,  as  illus- 
trated by  pictures  in  such  a  book  as  the  "  Codex 
Bologna","  the  only  surviving  manuscript  which  gives 
us  a  hint  that  such  books  actually  existed.  These 
preliminary  steps  accomplished,  he  next  betook  him- 
self to  a  desert  place,  and  called  upon  one  or  other 
of  the  presiding  deities  of  magic,  and  possibly  the  god 
of  the  hour,  for  assistance  in  his  task. 

If  he  had  been  "  retained  "  by  a  client  to  employ 
magical  power  upon  a  third  party,  he  did  so  by  means 
of  intense  concentration.  Sitting  in  his  cavern  or  on 
some  wild  hill-side,  he  brought  all  his  mental  powers 
to  bear  on  the  idea  of  the  person  whom  it  was  desired 
to  influence  either  for  good  or  evil.  Instances  are 
on  record  of  Mexican  wizards  who  pitted  their  wills 
and  magical  influences  against  one  another.  Says 
Brinton  : 

"  In  these  strange  duels  a  Voutrance,  one  would  be 
seated  opposite  his  antagonist,  surrounded  with  the 
mysterious  emblems  of  his  craft,  and  call  upon  his 
gods,  one  after  another,  to  strike  his  enemy  dead. 
Sometimes  one,  '  gathering  his  medicine,'  as  it  was 
termed,  feeling  within  himself  that  hidden  force  of 
will  which  makes  itself  acknowledged  even  without 
words,  would  rise  in  his  might,  and  in  a  loud  and  severe 
voice  command  his  opponent  to  die  !  Straightway 


the  latter  would  drop  dead,  or  yielding  in  craven 
fear  to  a  superior  volition,  forsake  the  implements  of 
his  art,  and  with  an  awful  terror  at  his  heart,  creep 
to  his  lodge,  refuse  all  nourishment,  and  presently 


IT  is,  indeed,  deplorable  that  the  study  of  the  rich 
and  mysterious  civilization  of  the  Maya  Indians 
of  Central  America  should  not  more  generally 
commend  itself  to  British  archaeologists.  Thousands 
of  people  in  Great  Britain  would,  if  they  could,  peruse 
the  wondrous  story  of  those  silent  isthmian  temples 
with  the  delight  of  greater  children  for  a  grown-up 
fairy-tale.  But  they  can  scarcely  be  expected  to  bur- 
row among  the  bulletins  of  the  United  States  Bureau 
of  Ethnology,  even  if  they  ever  heard  of  that  surpris- 
ingly efficient,  if  rather  dreary  institution,  and  no 
modern  book  in  English  gives  an  account  at  once 
adequate  and  attractive  of  the  marvellous  panorama 
of  Maya  progress.  What  is  really  required  is  a  volume 
neither  of  the  etiolated  proportions  of  the  modern 
textbook,  nor  on  the  other  hand  over  portly,  written 
out  of  sound  knowledge  and  setting  forth  in  the 
manner  of  a  Prescott  or  a  Layard  the  wondrous  tale 
of  Maya  history.  It  should  tell  in  chapters  of  enthral- 
ment,  provided  with  good  illustrations,  of  the  deserted 
temples  of  Guatemala  and  Yucatan,  and  provide  a 
picturesque  account  of  what  is  known  of  the  myth- 
ology and  religious  customs  of  the  Maya  race.  Nor 
should  such  a  volume  be  without  a  description  of  the 
strange  systems  of  writing  and  arithmetic  employed 
by  this  gifted  people,  or  of  their  extremely  beautiful 
and  individual  art  and  intricate  symbolism. 



A  brief  summary  of  the  results  of  recent  research 
in  the  study  of  Maya  antiquity  is  all  that  can  be  at- 
tempted here  in  the  hope  that  it  may  attract  a  larger 
number  of  interested  readers  to  such  works  as 
presently  await  their  attention.  The  Maya  appear 
to  have  emerged  from  barbarism  during  the  first  or 
second  century  of  the  Christian  era.  Their  earliest 
dated  monuments  cannot  with  safety  be  ascribed  to 
a  more  remote  period.  No  sooner  had  Maya  civiliza- 
tion been  fairly  set  upon  its  feet  than  it  began  to 
progress  with  extraordinary  rapidity.  Regarding  the 
precise  place  of  its  origin  authoritative  opinion  is 
practically  agreed. 

The  general  character  of  the  architectural  remains 
in  the  region  lying  between  the  Bay  of  Tabasco  and 
the  foot  of  the  Cordilleras  and  watered  by  the  river 
Usumacinta  and  the  Rio  de  la  Pasion  in  the  modern 
state  of  Chiapas,  points  conclusively  to  this  district 
as  the  first  settlement  of  Central  American  civilization, 
and  the  relatively  archaic  type  of  the  hieroglyphs 
found  upon  its  monuments  as  well  as  the  early  dates 
these  contain  give  to  this  theory  something  of  finality. 
The  oldest  centres  of  Maya  life  are  probably  Tikal 
and  Peten  in  Eastern  Guatemala.  It  is  believed  that 
the  development  of  the  southern  Maya  states  con- 
tinued for  nearly  four  hundred  years,  or  until  the 
close  of  the  sixth  century  A.D.,  about  which  time  dis- 
aster seems  to  have  come  upon  them  with  tragic 

We  do  not  know  the  cause  of  the  downfall  of  what 
must  have  been  a  complex  and  highly-developed  civili- 
zation. Possibly  a  horde  of  barbarians  from  the  north 
swept  down  upon  its  settled  communities.  But 
even  to-day  its  gorgeous  temples  and  palaces  show  no 
signs  of  deliberate  destruction  such  as  would  surely 
have  been  evident  had  they  fallen  into  the  hands  of 
savage  marauders.  More  probably  these  cities  were 


emptied  of  their  inhabitants  by  one  of  the  migratory 
impulses  which  reappear  so  frequently  in  American 
native  history.  This  theory  is  rendered  possible  by 
the  fact  that  the  period  of  their  desertion  synchronizes 
with  that  of  the  discovery  by  the  Maya  of  Yucatan, 
a  region  whose  wealth  in  stone  probably  attracted 
a  nation  of  builders.  But  Yucatan  is,  on  the  whole,  an 
arid  country,  and  it  is  still  more  likely  that  the  retreat 
of  the  Maya  thence  was  dictated  by  the  imperative 
reason  of  self-preservation  or  by  the  command  of  the 
tribal  gods. 

The  most  important  of  the  older  city-states  were 
Palenque,  Piedras  Negras,  Ocosingo,  Tikal,  Yax- 
chilan,  and  Quirigua,  sites  which  are  scattered  over 
Southern  Mexico  and  Guatemala,  while  Copan,  per- 
haps the  most  important  of  all,  is  situated  in  Hon- 
duras, the  southern  limit  of  Maya  culture,  so  far  as  is 
presently  known. 

Of  the  later  sites  in  Yucatan,  Chichen-Itza  was  by 
far  the  most  famous,  Mayapan,  Uxmal,  and  Labna 
barely  approaching  it  in  celebrity.  With  the  discovery 
of  Yucatan  a  new  era  opened  up  for  Maya  art  and 
social  activity.  At  first  the  struggle  for  bare  existence 
on  the  inhospitable  and  poorly-irrigated  plateau  was 
probably  intense.  But  the  ingenious  immigrants 
triumphed  over  conditions  of  the  most  unhealthy  kind, 
and  by  degrees  improved  their  agricultural  knowledge 
and  astronomical  science,  fixing  the  revolutionary 
periods  of  the  planets  with  accuracy  and  developing 
the  solar  calendar.  The  Maya  Renaissance  was  fully 
under  way  by  the  end  of  the  tenth  century  and  edifices 
which  recall  the  palmy  days  of  Palenque  and  Copan 
were  once  more  rising  all  over  Yucatan. 

About  the  year  A.D.  1000  Chichen-Itza,  Uxmal,  and 
Mayapan  formed  a  political  confederacy  and  under 
the  pacific  conditions  which  followed  the  institution 
of  this  league  art  and  science  blossomed  forth  anew. 


Cities  multiplied  with  astonishing  rapidity  and  the 
art  of  sculpture,  which  had  now  become  merely  an 
adjunct  to  architecture,  achieved  an  elaboration  and 
intricacy  of  design  unsurpassed,  perhaps,  by  any 
people  in  any  age. 

With  the  disruption  of  what  may  be  called  the 
Triple  Alliance  about  the  year  1200,  an  event  pre- 
cipitated by  the  conspiracy  of  the  ruler  of  Chichen- 
Itza  against  his  colleague  of  Mayapan,  a  series  of 
disastrous  wars  ensued  which  lasted  until  the  country 
was  discovered  by  the  Spaniards.  These  endless 
internecine  struggles  led  to  the  employment  of  mer- 
cenaries from  the  ruder  tribes  of  Mexico,  the  presence 
of  whom  set  an  indelible  stamp  upon  Maya  art  and 
manners,  and  we  find  the  graceful  Maya  sculptors 
forced  to  carry  out  the  designs,  and  even  accompany- 
ing them  with  the  completely  different  hieroglyphical 
inscriptions,  of  a  Mexican  military  aristocracy.  Had 
they  placed  side  by  side  with  these  the  equivalent 
Maya  characters,  modern  science  would  have  been 
provided  with  an  American  Rosetta  stone,  as  the 
Mexican  glyphs,  unlike  those  of  the  Maya,  can  now  be 
deciphered  with  a  reasonable  degree  of  exactitude. 

This  brings  us  to  the  problem  of  Maya  writing,  which 
is  still  almost  entirely  a  closed  book  to  investigators. 
For  the  pursuit  of  this  quest  a  far  greater  degree  of 
industry  and  ingenuity  has  been  needful  than  for 
the  decipherment  of  the  ancient  writings  of  Egypt 
or  Sumeria.  Certain  of  the  "  calculiform  "  or  pebble- 
shaped  characters  have  been  unriddled,  especially 
those  which  apply  to  the  sun,  moon,  and  planets, 
those  for  "  beginning,"  "  ending,"  the  symbols  for 
the  year,  "  night,"  and  the  glyphs  for  the  "  months  " 
and  "  days."  The  most  important  texts,  strangely 
enough,  are  to  be  found  in  the  older  regions  of  Guate- 
mala and  Chiapas  rather  than  in  Yucatan,  and  in 
the  three  Maya  manuscripts  that  remain  to  us — the 

The  sign  for  "  might "  and 
The  sign  which  means  "  sun,*'      The  symbol  for  "  moon."       "  sky.  The  dots  represent  stars. 

The  sign  for  "beginning.1 

'The  end." 

1  Tying  together,"  "  union." 

"Division  "is  symbolised 
by  a  flint  knife. 

The  serpent  symbol  for 
"  water." 

Sacrificial  victim. 

The  sign  for  the  year. 

This  symbol  is  read,'  Day  of 
the  new  year  in  the  month." 



Dresden,  Paris,  and  Madrid  MSS. — the  glyphs  appear 
as  a  number  of  small  squares  rounded  at  the  corners 
and  representing  human  faces  and  other  objects  highly 
conventionalized  by  generations  of  artistic  usage. 
They  are  arranged  as  a  rule  in  two  parallel  columns 
and  are  read  two  columns  at  a  time,  from  left  to  right 
and  top  to  bottom.  Formerly  it  was  believed  that 
the  work  of  Landa,  Bishop  of  Yucatan,  written  in 
1565,  contained  the  "  key  "  to  the  script.  But  it  is 
now  known  that  the  natives,  exasperated  at  his 
destruction  of  their  manuscripts,  deliberately  deceived 
him,  and  that  with  the  exception  of  the  symbols  for 
the  days  and  "  months  "  his  "  key  "  is  quite  misleading. 

Much  difference  of  opinion  exists  as  to  whether  the 
system  is  phonetic  or  ideographic  in  character.  It  is 
probably  both  phonetic  and  pictorial  to  some  extent, 
but  for  the  most  part  it  appears  to  be  of  the  nature 
of  rebus  writing,  in  which  the  characters  do  not  indi- 
cate the  meaning  of  the  objects  which  they  portray, 
but  only  the  sounds  of  their  names.  Thus,  if  English 
were  written  in  this  manner,  the  picture  of  a  human 
eye  might  stand  for  the  first  personal  pronoun,  a 
drawing  of  a  bee  for  the  verb  "  to  be,"  and  so  forth. 
But  it  seems  probable  that  an  ever-increasing  number 
of  phonetic  elements  will  be  identified,  though  the 
idea  of  a  glyph  will  always  be  found  to  overshadow  its 
phonetic  value.  Through  generations  of  use  the  sys- 
tem came  to  possess  a  significance  entirely  ideographic, 
and  would  not  necessitate  any  such  effort  of  mental 
translation  as  a  people  unused  to  rebus  writing  would 
have  to  make  in  order  to  comprehend  it  readily. 

The  manner  in  which  the  arithmetical  system  and 
dating  of  the  Maya  was  discovered  by  Emile  For- 
stemann  of  Berlin  is  decidedly  the  greatest  triumph 
of  American  archaeology  within  recent  years.  A  dot 
stood  for  1  and  a  bar  or  line  for  5.  By  various  com- 
binations of  these  the  Maya  expressed  all  the  numerals 


from  1  to  19  inclusive.  Twenty  was  denoted  by  the 
moon,  as  indicating  the  number  of  days  in  which 
the  moon  waxes  and  wanes.  But  the  manner  in 
which  the  "  higher  mathematics  "  of  the  Maya  was 
evolved  is  much  too  intricate  a  process  to  be  described 
here.  Each  of  the  periods  of  time  in  use  among  the 
Maya  was  based  on  the  period  of  revolution  of  one  or 
other  of  the  heavenly  bodies  and  was  represented  by 
an  appropriate  hieroglyph,  and  when  a  date  was 
sculptured  on  a  monument  the  number  of  periods  it 
contained,  years,  "  months,"  and  days,  was  set  forth 
in  the  glyphs  which  denoted  them.  These  dates  can 
be  collated  with  European  chronology  through  the 
agency  of  manuscripts  known  as  the  Books  of  Chilan 
Balam,  "  The  Tiger  Priesthood,"  native  annals  of  the 
priestly  hierarchy  of  Yucatan,  in  which  the  ancient 
system  of  chronology  is  preserved.  The  annals  in 
question  were  fortunately  continued  into  the  post- 
Conquest  period,  so  that  some  of  the  events  they  date 
in  the  native  manner  have  known  European  equiva- 
lents. If  we  count  backwards  from  these  and  reduce 
the  Maya  system  of  computing  time  to  the  terms  of 
our  own,  it  becomes  possible  to  interpret  the  dates  on 
the  monuments  with  a  fair  likelihood  of  correctness. 
Thus  the  period  of  the  foundation  of  the  city  of 
Palenque  has  been  fixed  at  15  B.C.,  that  ofYaxchilan 
at  75  B.C.,  Copan  A.D.  34,  Piedras  Negras  A.D.  109,  and 
the  abandonment  of  Copan  and  Quirigua  at  A.D.  231 
and  A.D.  292  respectively.  Perhaps  no  sphere  of 
archaeology  still  offers  such  vistas  of  conquest  as 
that  of  Central  America,  and  the  mysterious  interest 
which  cleaves  to  the  antiquities  of  the  isthmus  is  by 
no  means  yet  dissipated  by  the  searchlight  of  dis- 

The  architecture  of  the  Maya  was  their  greatest 
artistic  and  human  triumph.  The  wonderful  struc- 
tures which  have  aroused  the  admiration  of  genera- 


tions  of  archaeologists,  like  the  temples  and  pyramids 
of  Egypt  or  the  palaces  of  Babylon,  still  occupy  their 
ancient  sites  and  are  better  capable  than  any  other 
manifestation  of  Maya  life  of  illuminating  our  ideas 
on  the  subject  of  the  civilization  of  Central  America. 
For  the  most  part  they  are  buried  in  dark  and  mys- 
terious forests,  although  certain  of  them  stand  open 
on  the  arid  plains  of  Yucatan,  where  the  native  genius 
which  raised  them  arrived  at  its  apogee. 

The  majority  of  these  buildings  were  either  raised 
for  the  specific  purposes  of  religion  or  royal  occupation. 
Few  old  domestic  dwellings  survive  in  the  Maya  area, 
these  having  been  for  the  most  part  either  constructed 
of  adobe,  or  merely  of  reeds,  like  the  houses  of  the 
Maya  peasantry  of  the  present  day.  But  the  greater 
Maya  buildings  were  usually  erected  upon  a  mound  or 
ku,  either  natural  or  artificial,  as  were  some  of  the 
Mexican  religious  edifices.  The  most  general  founda- 
tion of  the  Maya  temple  was  a  series  of  earth-terraces 
arranged  in  exact  parallel  order,  the  buildings  them- 
selves forming  part  of  a  square.  They  were  con- 
structed from  the  hard  sandstone  of  the  country. 

But  the  Maya  were  surprisingly  ignorant  of  some  of 
what  we  would  call  the  first  principles  of  architecture. 
For  example,  they  were  totally  ignorant  of  the  prin- 
ciples upon  which  the  arch  is  constructed.  This 
difficulty  they  overcame  by  making  each  course  of 
masonry  overhang  the  one  beneath  it,  after  the 
method  employed  by  a  boy  with  a  box  of  bricks,  who 
finds  that  he  can  only  make  "  doorways  "  by  this 
means,  or  by  the  simple  expedient — also  employed 
by  the  Maya — of  placing  a  slab  horizontally  upon  two 
upright  pillars.  In  consequence  it  will  readily  be 
seen  that  the  superimposition  of  a  second  story  upon 
such  an  insecure  foundation  was  scarcely  to  be  thought 
of,  and  that  such  support  for  the  roof  as  towered  above 
the  doorway  would  necessarily  require  to  be  of  the 


most  substantial  description.  Indeed,  this  portion 
of  the  building  often  appears  to  be  more  than  half  the 
size  of  the  rest  of  the  edifice.  This  space  gave  the 
Maya  builders  a  splendid  chance  for  mural  decoration, 
and  it  must  be  said  they  readily  seized  it  and  made 
the  most  of  it,  ornamented  facades  being  perhaps 
the  most  typical  features  in  the  relics  of  Maya 

Apart  from  this,  the  Maya  practised  a  pyramidal 
type  of  architecture  of  which  many  good  and  even 
perfect  examples  remain.  A  first  story  was  built  in 
the  usual  manner,  and  the  second  raised  above  it  by 
making  a  mound  at  the  back  of  the  edifice  until  it  was 
on  a  level  with  the  roof,  and  then  building  upon  it. 
But  length  usually  took  the  place  of  height  in  Maya 

Survey,  design,  previous  calculation,  all  entered 
into  the  considerations  of  the  Maya  architects. 
The  manner  in  which  the  carved  stones  fitted  into 
each  other  shows  that  they  had  previously  been 
worked  apart.  In  certain  localities  we  discover  various 
methods.  In  Chiapas  we  find  the  bas-relief  in  stone 
or  stucco  almost  universally  employed.  In  Honduras 
the  stiffness  of  design  apparent  implies  an  older  type 
of  architecture,  along  with  caryatids  and  pillars  in 
human  form.  In  Guatemala  there  are  traces  of  the 
use  of  wood,  especially  in  the  lintels  of  doorways. 

In  the  modern  state  of  Chiapas  are  situated  the 
remains  of  the  city  of  Palenque,  one  of  the  most  cele- 
brated and  imposing  of  the  Maya  communities, 
nestling  on  the  lower  slopes  of  the  Cordilleras  and 
built  in  the  form  of  an  amphitheatre.  If  one  takes 
his  stand  on  the  central  ku  or  pyramid,  he  finds  him- 
self surrounded  by  a  circle  of  ruined  palaces  and 
temples  raised  upon  artificial  terraces.  The  principal 
and  most  imposing  is  the  Palace,  a  building  reared 
upon  a  single  platform,  and  in  the  shape  of  a  quad- 


ri lateral  surrounding  a  minor  structure.  On  the  walls 
of  some  of  the  buildings  are  sculptures  of  the  Feathered 
Serpent,  Kukulkan,  or  Quetzalcoatl. 

The  Temple  of  Inscriptions,  perched  on  an  eminence 
some  40  feet  high,  is  the  largest  edifice  in  Palenque. 
It  has  a  facade  74  feet  long  by  25  feet  deep,  composed 
of  a  great  gallery  which  runs  along  the  entire  front 
of  the  fane.  The  building  has  been  named  from  the 
inscriptions  with  which  certain  flagstones  in  the  central 
apartments  are  covered.  Three  other  temples  occupy 
a  piece  of  rising  ground  close  by.  These  are  the 
Temple  of  the  Sun,  closely  akin  in  type  to  many 
Japanese  temple  buildings  ;  the  Temple  of  the  Cross, 
in  which  a  wonderful  altar-piece  was  discovered ; 
and  the  Temple  of  the  Cross  No.  II.  In  the  Temple 
of  the  Cross  the  inscribed  altar  gave  its  name  to  the 
building.  In  the  central  slab  is  a  cross  of  the  American 
pattern,  its  roots  springing  from  the  hideous  head  of 
the  Earth-mother.  Its  branches  stretch  to  where  on 
the  right  and  left  stand  two  figures,  evidently  those 
of  a  priest  and  an  acolyte,  performing  some  mysterious 
rite.  On  the  apex  of  the  tree  is  placed  the  sacred 
turkey,  or  "  Emerald  Fowl,"  to  which  offerings  of 
maize  paste  are  made.  The  whole  is  surrounded  by 

Ake,  thirty  miles  east  of  Merida,  is  chiefly  famous 
for  its  pyramids,  hockey  or  tlachtli  courts,  and  the 
gigantic  pillars  which  once  supported  immense  gal- 
leries. One  of  its  principal  buildings  is  traditionally 
known  as  "  The  House  of  Darkness,"  as  it  can  boast 
not  a  single  window,  the  light  filtering  in  from  the 
doorway  alone.  The  "  Palace  of  Owls "  is  note- 
worthy for  its  diamond-shaped  frieze,  the  work  of 
the  earliest  Maya  builders  in  Yucatan. 

Chichen-Itza,  one  of  the  most  venerable  of  the 
ruined  cities  of  Yucatan,  is  chiefly  remarkable  for  its 
great  pyramid-temple,  known  as  El  Castillo,  which 


stands  on  a  mound  whence  temples  and  palaces 
radiate  in  a  circular  plan.  Its  so-called  "  Nunnery  " 
is  one  of  the  most  famous  examples  of  Maya  architec- 
ture, and  here  dwelt  the  sacred  women,  dedicated  to 
the  god  Kulkucan.  On  the  walls  of  the  contiguous 
building  called  "  El  Castillo  "  are  base-reliefs  repre- 
senting Kukulkan  and  his  priesthood. 

But  it  is  impossible  in  a  work  dealing  with  the 
occult  sciences  of  these  countries  to  afford  more  than 
passing  mention  to  their  architecture,  absorbing 
though  it  be,  and  we  must  turn  to  Maya  history. 
This  commences  about  the  beginning  of  the  Christian 
era  and  in  the  area  of  Palenque,  Piedras  Negras,  and 
Ocosingo  in  Chiapas.  Regarding  the  earlier  centuries 
we  know  little  or  nothing,  and  light  first  shines  for 
us  about  the  sixth  century,  when  the  Maya  of 
Guatemala  deserted  their  cities,  and  answering  some 
unknown  impulse  decided  to  emigrate  into  Yucatan. 
It  is  possible  that  they  were  forced  to  do  so  by  a 
Nahua  invasion,  traces  of  which  are  to  be  found  in  a 
Kuikatec  manuscript  of  early  origin,  but  it  is  equally 
likely  that,  as  had  happened  before  in  their  history, 
and  as  is  evident  from  the  pages  of  "  The  Popol  Vuh," 
which  supplies  a  precedent,  that  they  left  their  settle- 
ments in  the  south  because  of  some  religious  summons 
sent  by  the  gods  through  their  priests.  But  not  all 
of  the  Maya  race  deserted  their  cities.  Many  re- 
mained, and  a  cleavage  between  the  customs  of  the 
Maya  of  the  south  and  those  of  Yucatan  is  hence- 
forward to  be  remarked. 

Everything  points  to  a  late  occupation  of  Yucatan 
by  the  Maya,  and  architectural  effort  exhibits 
deterioration,  evidenced  in  a  high  conventionality  of 
design  and  excess  of  ornamentation.  Evidences  of 
Nahua  influence  also  are  not  wanting,  a  fact  which  is 
eloquent  of  the  later  period  of  contact  which  is  known 
to  have  occurred  between  the  peoples,  and  which 


alone  is  almost  sufficient  to  fix  the  date  of  the  settle- 
ment of  the  Maya  in  Yucatan.  It  must  not  be  thought 
that  the  Maya  in  Yucatan  formed  one  homogeneous 
state  recognizing  a  central  authority.  On  the  con- 
trary, as  is  often  the  case  with  colonists,  the  several 
Maya  bands  of  immigrants  formed  themselves  into 
different  states  or  kingdoms,  each  having  its  own 
separate  traditions.  It  is  thus  a  matter  of  the  greatest 
difficulty  to  so  collate  and  criticize  these  traditions 
as  to  construct  a  history  of  the  Maya  race  in  Yucatan. 
As  may  be  supposed,  we  find  the  various  city-sites 
founded  by  divine  beings  who  play  a  more  or  less 
important  part  in  the  Maya  pantheon.  Kukulkan, 
for  example,  is  the  first  king  of  Mayapan,  whilst 
Itzamna  figures  as  the  founder  of  the  state  of  Itzamal. 

The  founders  of  the  northern  city  of  Itzamal  soon 
formed  a  powerful  state  on  a  religious  or  priestly 
basis,  whereas  those  who  settled  in  Chichen-Itza, 
further  to  the  south,  were  of  more  warlike  disposition. 
About  the  year  1000  a  triple  alliance  was  entered  into 
by  Chichen-Itza,  Uxmal  and  Mayapan,  as  has  been 
said,  and  this  lasted  for  about  200  years. 

The  people  of  Chichen-Itza,  who  were  ruled  by  an 
aristocracy  known  as  the  Tutul  Xius,  came  into  con- 
flict with  the  Cocomes  or  Nahua  aristocracy  of 
Mayapan,  who,  after  a  struggle  of  nearly  120  years' 
duration,  overthrew  them  and  made  Chichen-Itza 
a  dependency.  The  ruling  caste,  the  Tutul  Xius, 
fled  southward,  and  settled  in  Potonchan,  where  they 
reigned  for  nearly  300  years.  They  took  into  their 
service  a  large  number  of  Aztec  and  other  Nahua 
mercenary  troops,  and  commenced  a  campaign  of 
northward  military  extension,  ultimately  reconquering 
the  territory  they  had  lost  to  the  Cocomes. 

Like  the  Romans,  they  made  excellent  roads,  and 
wherever  they  made  a  conquest  they  founded  a  city. 
This,  indeed,  was  the  period  of  the  full  blossoming  of 


Maya  art,  architectural  and  otherwise,  and  from  the 
shrines  of  Chichen  and  the  island  of  Cozumel  great 
highways  radiated  in  every  direction  for  the  conveni- 
ence of  pilgrims.  But  the  rule  of  the  Mexican  Cocomes 
still  flourished  and  eventually  became  a  tyranny. 
The  other  Maya  states  existed  in  a  condition  of  com- 
parative helotage  to  them,  and  even  the  Tutul  Xius 
had  to  pay  a  crushing  tribute  for  the  lands  they  held. 
The  Cocome  aristocracy,  secure  in  its  armed  might, 
permitted  itself  every  possible  luxury  and  excess, 
morality  ceased  to  be  regarded  as  a  virtue  among 
them,  and  popular  discontent  was  rife. 

The  dissolute  habits  of  the  alien  Cocomes  at  length 
aroused  general  disgust  and  a  revolutionary  feeling 
gained  ground.  The  Cocomes  on  their  part  now  en- 
gaged fresh  mercenaries  from  Mexico,  and  when  revolt 
at  last  ensued,  these  stemmed  the  tide  for  some  time. 
The  Tutul  Xius  were  forced  from  their  possessions  and 
settled  in  the  city  of  Mani.  The  Cocome  ruler  of 
Mayapan,  Hunac  Eel,  was  of  sterner  make  than  his 
degenerate  nobles.  Although  tyrannical,  he  possessed 
statesmanship  and  experience,  and  resolved  to  attack 
the  head  and  front  of  the  rebellious  states,  the  city  of 
Chichen-Itza.  At  the  head  of  a  great  host  he  marched 
against  it  and  succeeded  in  inflicting  a  severe  defeat 
on  the  Itzaes.  But  he  had  shortly  to  face  revolution 
at  home,  and  the  defeated  Itzaes  had  now  joined  forces 
with  his  other  enemies,  the  Tutul  Xius.  A  terrific 
onslaught  was  launched  against  the  Cocomes,  and  in 
1436  they  and  their  city  were  destroyed.  They  fled 
to  Zotuta,  a  region  in  the  centre  of  Yucatan,  sur- 
rounded by  almost  impenetrable  forests. 

But  in  crushing  the  Cocomes,  the  rulers  of  Chichen- 
Itza  had  almost  crushed  themselves.  Gradually  their 
city  crumbled  into  ruin,  political  and  physical,  and 
its  aristocracy  left  it  at  last  to  seek  the  cradle  of  the 
Maya  race  in  Guatemala,  or  so  tradition  says. 


The  Maya  people  of  Guatemala,  the  Quiches  and 
Kakchiquels,  have  a  separate  history  of  their  own, 
which  is  preserved  for  us  in  the  pages  of  "  The  Popol 
Vuh,"  their  sacred  book,  a  part  of  which  the  reader 
will  find  outlined  in  the  section  which  deals  with  the 
arcane  writings  of  the  Maya. 

As  with  the  earlier  dynasties  of  Egypt,  considerable 
doubt  surrounds  the  history  of  the  early  Quiche 
monarchs.  Indeed,  a  period  of  such  uncertainty 
occurs  that  even  the  number  of  kings  who  reigned  is 
lost  in  the  hopeless  confusion  of  varying  estimates. 
From  this  chaos  emerge  the  facts  that  the  Quiche 
monarchs  held  the  supreme  power  among  the  peoples 
of  Guatemala,  that  they  were  the  contemporaries  of 
the  rulers  of  Mexico  City,  and  that  they  were  often 
elected  from  among  the  princes  of  the  subject-states. 
Acxopil,  the  successor  of  Nima-Quiche,  invested  his 
second  son  with  the  government  of  the  Kakchiquels, 
and  placed  his  youngest  son  over  the  Tzutuhils,  whilst 
to  his  eldest  son  he  left  the  throne  of  the  Quiches. 
Icutemal,  his  eldest  son,  on  succeeding  his  father, 
gifted  the  kingdom  of  Kakchiquel  to  his  eldest  son, 
displacing  his  own  brother  and  thus  mortally  affront- 
ing him.  The  struggle  which  ensued  lasted  for  genera- 
tions, embittered  the  relations  between  these  two 
branches  of  the  Maya  in  Guatemala,  and  undermined 
their  joint  strength.  Nahua  mercenaries  were  em- 
ployed in  the  struggle  on  both  sides,  and  these  intro- 
duced many  of  the  crudities  of  Nahua  life  into  Maya 

This  condition  of  things  lasted  up  to  the  time  of  the 
coming  of  the  Spaniards.  The  Kakchiquels  dated  the 
commencement  of  a  new  chronology  from  the  episode 
of  the  defeat  of  Cay  Hun-Apu  by  them  in  1492.  They 
may  have  saved  themselves  the  trouble  ;  for  the  time 
was  at  hand  when  the  calendars  of  their  race  were  to 
be  closed,  and  its  records  written  in  another  script  by 


another  people.  One  by  one,  and  chiefly  by  reason  of 
their  insane  policy  of  allying  themselves  with  the 
invader  against  their  own  kin,  the  old  kingdoms  of 
Guatemala  fell  as  spoil  to  the  daring  Conquistadores. 
Magic  and  divination  played  an  extraordinary  part 
in  the  policy  and  administration  of  the  Maya  states. 
No  ruler  would  act  without  the  advice  of  his  sooth- 
sayers, and  it  may  well  be  said  that  seldom  has  a 
state  of  fairly  advanced  human  society  acted  so  much 
in  accordance  with  the  systems  and  dictates  of  the 
arcane  sciences.  This  does  not  in  any  way  imply  that 
its  downfall  was  due  to  the  acceptance  of  such  wisdom, 
for  it  was  only  upon  the  lack  of  observance  of  the 
mystical  rule  which  the  wise  priesthood  of  the  Maya 
applied  that  the  city-states  of  Yucatan  crashed  into 
ruin.  Had  the  nobility  pursued  the  custom  of  its 
predecessors  and  hearkened  to  the  divine  voices 
which  formerly  dictated  their  policy  their  fall  would 
have  been  averted,  but,  like  many  another  aristocracy, 
they  forsook  a  well-devised  theocracy  for  an  insensate 
luxury  and  the  degradations  of  profligate  pleasure. 


THE  most  intensive  examination  of  the  gods 
of  the  Maya  people  of  Central  America  and 
Yucatan  has  so  far  been  directed  to  those 
pictures  of  them  which  appear  in  the  three  principal 
Maya  manuscripts  remaining  to  us,  the  Dresden, 
Paris,  and  Tro-Cortesianus  Codices,  and  not  to  the 
sculptured  representations  of  divine  forms  on  the 
surviving  monuments  of  that  marvellous  people. 
The  pictured  forms  of  personages  in  the  manuscripts 
are,  indeed,  so  obviously  those  of  divinities  that  we 
are  justified  in  attempting  to  collate  them  with  the 
various  members  of  the  Maya  pantheon  alluded  to  in 
literary  sources,  in  the  "  Books  of  Chilan  Balam," 
"  The  Popol  Vuh,"  "  The  Book  of  the  Cakchiquels  " 
and  elsewhere.  But  the  same  can  scarcely  be  said 
of  the  sculptured  figures  which  appear  on  the  temple 
walls  and  stelae  of  Central  America.  Certain  of  these, 
indeed,  are  as  manifestly  divine  as  any  of  the  forms 
depicted  in  the  manuscripts,  and  are  capable  of  being 
compared  if  not  identified  with  them,  but  others, 
again,  are  as  obviously  representations,  either  modelled 
from  the  life,  or  post-mortem  sculptures,  of  great 
leaders  or  hierophants.  Nor  is  it  always  possible,  in 
view  of  our  present  poverty  of  data  and  knowledge, 
to  discriminate  between  these  figures  which  had  a 
human  and  a  divine  significance. 

The  hieroglyphs  which  in  almost  every  instance 
accompany  these  pictures  and  sculptures  in  human 



form  still  remain  undeciphered,  and  until  these  yield 
their  secret  it  will  be  impossible  to  identify  the  gods 
or  personages  they  name  with  any  degree  of  certainty. 
For  nearly  a  generation  the  painted  representations 
of  gods  in  the  Maya  manuscripts  have  been  for  the 
sake  of  convenience  described  by  the  letters  of  the 
alphabet  from  A  to  P,  a  method  which  has  been 
found  much  more  satisfactory  than  any  dogmatic 
system  of  nomenclature  which  might  have  affixed  to 
them  the  names  of  divine  beings  in  Maya  myth  with- 
out the  absolute  assurance  that  they  actually  applied 
to  the  painted  representations  whose  accompanying 
hieroglyphic  titles  we  cannot  yet  decipher. 

The  first  student  of  Maya  antiquities  to  apply  this 
provisional  and  truly  scientific  system  of  nomen- 
clature was  Dr.  Paul  Schellhas,  who,  so  long  ago  as 
1897,  introduced  it  to  the  notice  of  Americanists  in 
his  "  Representations  of  Deities  in  the  Maya  Manu- 
scripts "  as  "a  purely  inductive  natural  science 
method,"  essentially  amounting  to  "  that  which  in 
ordinary  life  we  call  '  memory  of  persons.' '  By  an 
intensive  examination  of  the  pictures  of  gods  in  the 
manuscripts  he  learned  gradually  to  recognize  them 
promptly  by  the  characteristic  impressions  they  made 
as  a  whole.  He  was  aided  in  this  not  only  by  dis- 
similarities in  face  and  figure,  but  by  such  details  as 
the  constant  occurrence  in  the  case  of  each  god  of 
some  outstanding  hieroglyph,  ornament,  or  other 
symbol.  He  dealt  with  the  figures  in  the  manuscripts 
alone,  and  almost  entirely  avoided  hypotheses  and 
deductions.  The  present  writer,  following  in  his  path, 
has,  however,  not  refrained  from  application  to  those 
other  sources  of  information  which  he  ignored,  and 
by  degrees  has  been  enabled  to  arrive  at  a  rather 
fuller  comprehension  of  that  extensive  Maya  godhead 
for  whose  worship  the  gorgeous  temples  of  tropical 
America  were  erected. 

L  M  N  O  P 

THE*  ALPHABET  '6p  MAYA  GODS  (after  Schellhas). 


Schellhas  candidly  admitted  his  lack  of  knowledge 
of  the  places  of  origin  of  the  three  invaluable  manu- 
scripts which  preserve  for  us  those  graceful  and  deli- 
cate representations  of  a  forgotten  Olympus.  But 
Dr.  H.  J.  Spinden,  of  the  American  Museum  of 
Natural  History,  in  his  monumental  work  on  "  Maya 
Art,"  has,  by  a  careful  comparison  of  the  art-forms 
of  those  wonderful  aboriginal  paintings,  dissipated 
nearly  all  existing  doubts  on  the  question.  The 
"  Codex  Dresden  "  he  assigns  to  the  region  south  of 
Uxmal  in  Yucatan.  In  the  "  Codex  Peresianus  "  he 
finds  marked  similarities  to  the  art  of  the  ruined 
cities  of  Naranho,  Quirigua,  and  Piedras  Negras  in 
Peten,  a  district  immediately  to  the  south  of  the 
Yucatan  peninsula.  As  for  the  "  Codex  Tro-Cor- 
tesianus,"  he  believes  it  to  have  been  the  work  of  a 
painter  living  in  the  northern  district  of  Yucatan. 
It  is,  of  course,  manifest  that  all  of  these  must  be 
copies  of  much  older  manuscripts,  and  Spinden  is  of 
opinion  that  the  last-mentioned  may  be  dated  not 
much  later  than  A.D.  1200.  This  means  that  all 
three  originated  in  those  districts  which  had  been 
colonized  by  the  Maya  after  they  had  left  their 
original  settlements  in  Guatemala  and  had  been 
driven  northward  into  Yucatan  by  racial  pressure  or 
other  causes,  and  it  is  clear  that  all  have  reference 
to  the  same  deities  and  arose  out  of  one  and  the  same 
religious  impulse.  It  is  possible,  however,  within 
reasonable  limits,  to  attempt  to  collate  many  of  these 
drawings  with  the  gods  of  Maya  myth.  The  figures 
appear  again  and  again,  and  there  is  in  the  manner 
of  their  representation  a  constancy  and  similarity  of 
form  and  attitude  which  justify  the  inference  that  it 
is  possible,  as  Schellhas  thought,  to  verify  a  god  from 
his  general  appearance  and  his  accompanying  symbols. 

The  god  first  encountered  in  this  alphabetic 
sequence,  God  A,  as  he  is  generally  described,  is 


without  doubt  that  grisly  genius  who  in  all  mytholo- 
gies presides  over  the  realm  of  the  departed.  He  is 
readily  to  be  recognized  by  his  skull-like  countenance 
and  bony  spine,  and  the  large  black  spots,  denoting 
corruption,  which  cover  the  emaciated  body.  He 
wears  as  a  collar  the  ruff  of  the  vulture,  the  bird  of 
death,  and  a  symbol  which  usually  accompanies  him, 
but  which  Schellhas  was  unable  to  decipher,  un- 
doubtedly represents  the  maggot,  evidently  a  kind 
of  hieroglyph  for  death.  But  the  distinguishing  glyph 
for  this  god  is  a  human  head  with  eyes  closed  in 
death,  before  which  stands  the  stone  knife  of  sacri- 
fice. In  one  part  of  the  "  Codex  Dresden  "  God  A 
is  shown  with  the  head  of  an  owl,  the  bird  of  ill-omen, 
his  almost  constant  attendant,  and  this  recalls  to  us 
a  passage  in  the  "  Popol  Vuh,"  a  religious  book  of 
the  Maya,  which  states  that  the  rulers  of  Xibalba, 
the  Underworld,  "  were  owls,"  the  inhabitants  of  a 
dark  and  cavernous  place. 

I  believe  Schellhas's  God  A  to  be  Ah-puch,  the 
death-spirit  mentioned  by  Father  Hernandez.  His 
name  means  "  the  Undoer  "  or  "  Spoiler,"  and  he 
was  also  known  as  Chamay  Bac  or  Zac,  that  is 
"  white  teeth  and  bones."  In  some  of  his  portraits 
he  is  decorated  with  a  feather,  on  which  are  seen  the 
conventional  markings  of  the  symbol  of  the  flint 
knife,  and  I  have  deduced  from  this  that  the  glyph 
for  "  feather "  was  synonymous  with  that  for 
"  knife,"  a  notion  which  I  have  substantiated  from 
the  fact  that  in  Maya  the  first  wing  feather  of  a 
bird  was  called  "  a  knife." 

The  personality  of  God  B  is  a  much  debated  one. 
He  has  a  long  proboscis  and  tusk-like  fangs,  and 
certain  writers  on  American  antiquities  have  called 
him  "  the  elephant-headed  god."  Apart  from  these 
peculiarities,  his  eye  has  a  characteristic  rim,  and  he 
is  easily  recognized  by  the  strange  head-dress  he  wears, 


which  I  take  to  be  a  bundle  of  "  medicine  "  or  magical 
appliances.  And  here  it  may  be  as  well  to  say  that  I 
believe  the  head-dresses  of  these  gods  represent  the 
earliest  symbols  by  which  they  were  known  to  their 
priests  and  worshippers  in  the  period  before  writing 
was  invented  or  hieroglyphs  came  into  use.  They 
would  thus  rank  as  hieroglyphs,  as  something  to  be 
immediately  recognized  or  "  read,"  and  probably 
acted  as  a  definite  step  in  the  invention  of  written 
symbols.  But  their  earliest  use  seems  to  have  been 
as  personal  signs  by  which  the  gods  could  be  readily 

That  God  B  has  an  affinity  with  water  is  plainly 
evident.  He  is  seen  walking  on  its  surface,  standing 
in  rain,  fishing,  paddling  a  canoe,  and  even  enthroned 
on  the  clouds.  He  is  connected  with  the  serpent, 
which  is,  in  America,  the  water-animal  par  excellence. 
In  some  places,  indeed,  his  head  surmounts  a  ser- 
pentine body,  and,  like  the  priests  of  the  modern 
Zufii  Indians  of  Arizona,  he  is  represented  as  clutch- 
ing tame  serpents  in  his  hands.  Like  the  old  British 
god  Kai — the  "  Sir  Kai  the  Seneschal  "  of  Malory — 
he  is  seen  in  some  parts  of  the  manuscript  carrying 
flaming  torches.  Kai  was  a  god  of  the  waters  ;  so, 
in  some  measure,  is  God  B. 

The  "  elephantine  "  aspect  of  this  god  is  accounted 
for  by  his  wearing  the  mask  of  the  medicine-man  or 
priest  during  the  religious  ceremony.  Indeed,  in  one 
statue  of  his  analogous  Mexican  form  we  see  him  in 
the  very  act  of  removing  this  mask.  In  Mexico  the 
mask  resembles  the  beak  of  a  bird ;  in  Central 
America  it  is  more  like  a  snout — whether  that  of  an 
elephant,  tapir,  or  other  animal  I  do  not  possess 
sufficient  data  to  form  an  opinion. 

God  B  is,  indeed,  none  other  than  Kukulkan,  "  The 
Feathered  Serpent,"  the  Maya  name  for  the  Quetzal- 
coatl,  the  god  of  the  rain-bearing  trade- wind.  But 


in  Central  America  proper,  whence  he  originally 
hailed,  he  is  more  intimately  connected  with  water 
than  with  wind,  and  the  learned  priests  of  his  cult 
explained  him  to  the  Spanish  conquerors  as  "  the 
ripple  wind  makes  on  water,"  the  ruffled  feathers  on 
the  serpentine  stream.  But  in  later  times  he  came 
to  be  regarded  as  the  priest  who  conjured  down  the 
rain  by  magic,  and  his  possession  of  the  caluac,  or 
rain-maker's  wand,  places  his  position  in  this  respect 
beyond  all  question. 

Coming  to  the  third  letter  of  our  alphabet  of  gods 
we  find  God  C  simple  of  explanation.  At  first  sight 
his  outward  semblance  may  seem  puzzling.  His  face 
is  framed  by  the  painted  border  seen  on  the  xamach 
or  flat  dish  on  which  the  Maya  baked  their  tortillas 
or  maize  pancakes.  But  xamach  also  means  "  north," 
so  that  in  this  instance  we  have  an  example  of  that 
rebus-writing  on  which  the  Maya  hieroglyphical 
system  was  undoubtedly  based.  There  was,  we  know 
from  tradition,  a  god  called  Xamanek,  who  repre- 
sented the  pole  star,  and  that  God  C  is  identical  with 
this  deity  scarcely  admits  of  any  doubt.  In  the 
"  Codex  Cortesianus  "  we  see  his  head  surrounded  by 
a  nimbus  of  rays  which  can  symbolize  only  stellar 
emanations,  and  in  the  same  manuscript  we  find  him 
hanging  from  the  sky  in  the  noose  of  a  rope.  Else- 
where he  is  accompanied  by  familiar  planetary  signs. 

In  D  we  have  a  god  of  night  and  the  moon.  He  is 
represented  as  an  aged  man  with  toothless  jaws,  and 
is  indicated  by  the  hieroglyph  akbal,  "  night."  His 
head,  in  the  reduced  cursive  writing  of  the  texts, 
stands  for  the  sign  of  the  moon,  and  is  frequently 
accompanied  by  the  snail,  the  emblem  of  birth,  over 
which  function  the  moon  had  planetary  jurisdiction. 
Among  the  Maya  deities  D  is  the  only  one  who  can 
boast  of  a  beard,  a  certain  sign  in  the  case  of  the 
neighbouring  Mexican  pantheon  that  a  god  possesses 


a  planetary  significance,  and  for  this  reason,  no  less 
than  because  of  his  venerable  appearance,  I  would 
collate  him  with  Tonaca  tecutli,  the  Mexican  creative 
deity,  father  of  the  gods,  the  Saturn  of  their  Olympus. 
This  figure  was  known  to  the  Maya  of  Guatemala  as 
Xpiyacoc,  but  can  scarcely  be  collated  with  Hunab 
Ku,  "  The  Great  Hand,"  the  "  god  behind  the  gods," 
invisible,  impalpable,  of  whom  we  are  assured  that  he 
was  represented  in  neither  painting  nor  sculpture. 

In  God  E  we  have  such  a  definite  picture  of  a 
divinity  connected  with  the  maize-plant  that  we  have 
no  difficulty  in  identifying  him  as  Ghanan,  the  tra- 
ditional Maya  god  of  the  maize,  whose  other  name 
was  Yum  Kaax,  "  Lord  of  the  Harvest  Fields."  He 
bears  the  maize-plant  on  his  head,  and  this,  becoming 
in  course  of  time  the  conventionalized  form  of  an  ear 
of  maize  with  leaves,  composed  his  hieroglyph.  His 
face-paint,  too,  frequently  bears  the  symbol  of  fer- 
tility, and  the  rain-vase  is  depicted  as  an  ornament 
above  his  ear. 

God  F,  in  his  insignia,  is  reminiscent  of  the  Mexican 
harvest-god  Xipe,  whose  annual  festival  brought 
forth  such  grisly  horrors  of  human  sacrifice.  He  has 
the  same  distinguishing  vertical  face-mark,  implying 
"  war,"  for  plenteous  harvests  were  only  to  be 
secured  by  drenching  the  soil  with  the  blood  of 
prisoners  taken  in  battle.  He  is,  indeed,  a  war-god, 
and  is  occasionally  represented  in  full  war-paint,  with 
flint  knife  and  blazing  torch,  setting  fire  to  tents  or 
huts.  In  some  places  he  is  pictured  underneath  a 
stone  axe  in  the  shape  of  a  hand,  with  thumb  turned 
upwards,  which  probably  had  an  inauspicious  sig- 

God  G  is  not  often  represented  in  the  manuscripts. 
He  appears  to  be  a  sun-god,  and  his  hieroglyph,  a 
circle  enclosing  four  teeth,  is  believed  by  some 
authorities  to  symbolize  the  "  biting "  nature  of 


tropical  heat.  His  own  teeth  are  filed  to  a  sharp 
point.  His  head-dress  recalls  that  of  the  priesthood 
of  Yucatan,  and  in  some  of  his  representations  has  a 
certain  resemblance  to  the  Egyptian  wig.  There  is, 
indeed,  no  question  that  it  is  a  wig.  He  frequently 
holds  the  flower  symbolic  of  a  life  rendered  to  him  in 
sacrifice,  and  is  occasionally  depicted  standing  amid 
tongues  of  solar  flame,  a  central  eye  blazing  upon  his 
forehead.  That  he  is  Kinich  Ahau,  the  sun-god,  is 
scarcely  open  to  dispute.  Another  of  his  hieroglyphs 
consists  of  a  composite  picture,  including  a  solar  disk, 
the  sign  been,  which  means  "  straw-thatch,"  and  the 
sign  ik,  which  in  this  connection  is  to  be  translated 
"  fire  which  strikes  upon  the  roof,"  in  allusion  to  the 
frequency  with  which  the  thatched  roofs  of  the  Maya 
were  ignited  by  the  fierce  rays  of  the  sun  of  Yucatan. 

The  distinguishing  characteristic  of  God  H  consists 
in  what  is  known  as  the  chiccan  or  serpent-spot 
appearing  on  his  brow.  He  has  practically  no  other 
distinctive  marks,  and  that  he  has  some  relation  to 
the  serpent  is  clear.  With  I  we  come  to  the  first 
of  the  two  goddesses  represented  in  the  list — a 
divinity  of  water.  She  is  scarcely  prepossessing,  and 
has  claws  in  place  of  feet.  She  wears  on  her  head  a 
knotted  serpent,  and  seems  to  pour  the  flooding  rains 
from  a  large  vessel.  But  she  is  evidently  not  a  bene- 
ficent deity,  for  her  face  is  distorted  by  an  expression 
of  angry  menace,  and  it  is  obvious  that  she  personifies 
water  in  its  more  harmful  guise — the  baneful  flood 
rather  than  the  grain-bringing  rain.  In  some  of  the 
representations  of  her  water  belches  from  her  mouth, 
breasts,  and  armpits,  and  she  wields  the  rattle  of  the 

Such  data  as  we  possess  regarding  the  deity  indi- 
cated by  the  letter  K  is  not  of  a  kind  that  would 
permit  us  to  arrive  at  any  very  definite  conclusions 
regarding  him.  He  closely  resembles  B,  and  has  even 


been  confounded  with  him  by  some  authorities.  He 
is  frequently  represented  on  the  walls  of  the  temples 
of  Copan  and  Palenque,  so  it  follows  that  he  must 
have  been  a  divinity  who  ranked  high  in  the  galaxy 
of  gods.  He  has  the  same  description  of  mask,  with 
elongated  snout,  as  B,  but  his  hieroglyph  differs  very 
markedly  from  the  symbol  of  that  god,  representing 
as  it  does  an  almost  ape-like  head  with  a  peculiar 
foliation  in  the  region  of  the  forehead — a  constant 
feature  in  his  pictures.  From  his  position  as  lord  of 
the  calendar  years  which  belong  to  the  east,  Professor 
Seler  believes  him  to  be  Ah-Bolon  Tzacab,  "  Lord  of 
the  Nine  Generations."  In  my  view  he  is  a  variant 
of  B.  The  two  most  famous  deities  among  the  Maya, 
Kukulkan,  and  Itzamna,  were  undoubtedly  one  and 
the  same  in  origin  and  essence,  although  in  later  times 
they  came  to  be  regarded  as  rivals  and  as  swaying 
the  fortune  of  opposing  cities,  and  I  believe  K 
represents  Itzamna,  as  B  is  unquestionably  Kukulkan. 

A  deity  of  darksome  hue  appears  in  God  L,  known 
as  "  The  Old  Black  God."  In  some  of  the  pictures  in 
the  "  Codex  Dresden  "  his  face  is  entirely  black,  but 
in  the  other  manuscripts  only  the  upper  part  of  it  is 
so  painted.  From  the  insignia  which  accompany  him 
I  have  been  led  to  the  provisional  conclusion  that  he 
is  in  some  manner  connected  with  the  synodical 
appearances  of  the  planet  Venus,  which  bulked 
largely  in  the  Maya  chronology  as  the  basis  of  a  time- 
count  for  the  calendar.  He  is  also  the  fire-maker, 
who  kindles  the  new  flame  with  the  fire-drill  on  the 
recurrence  of  the  time-cycle. 

In  God  M  we  have  an  even  duskier  deity,  a  patron 
of  the  native  porters  or  coolies,  and,  like  them,  well- 
nigh  black  through  constant  exposure  to  the  tropical 
sun.  He  has,  in  fact,  an  appearance  almost  negroid, 
thick  red  lips,  the  lower  drooping  pendulously.  He 
bears  on  his  head  a  bale  of  merchandise  secured  by 


thick  ropes.  Occasionally  he  is  drawn  with  the 
skeleton-like  frame  of  the  death-god,  and  this,  and 
the  circumstance  that  he  usually  carries  arms,  incline 
me  to  the  belief  that  he  is  symbolical  of  the  great 
risks  run  by  the  itinerant  merchants  of  Mexico  and 
Yucatan,  who  frequently  acted  as  spies  upon  neigh- 
bouring tribes  or  as  the  advance-guard  of  an  invading 
army.  He  is,  indeed,  the  god  Ek  Ahau,  or  Ek  Chuah, 
"  The  Black  Lord,"  a  cruel  and  rapacious  deity, 
whose  general  character  reflects  none  too  amiably 
upon  the  methods  of  Maya  commercial  activity. 

God  N,  another  aged  divinity,  is  the  god  of  the 
end  of  the  year,  and  his  head-dress  contains  the  sign 
for  the  year  of  360  days.  O  is  the  only  other  goddess 
of  the  group,  and  her  picture  does  not  appear  else- 
where than  in  the  "  Madrid  Codex."  She  is  also 
depicted  as  advanced  in  years,  and  is  usually  repre- 
sented as  sitting  at  a  loom.  P,  the  last  of  the  series, 
is  easily  to  be  recognized  as  the  Maya  frog-god,  whose 
head-dress,  like  that  of  God  N,  contains  the  sign  for 
the  year. 

It  is  then  possible  to  identify  with  reasonable  like- 
lihood six  out  of  these  sixteen  figures,  to  label  them 
with  the  traditional  names  they  bore,  and  to  fix  the 
nature  and  characteristics  of  some  of  them.  We  now 
come  to  those  pictured  representations  of  divinities 
who  are  not  included  in  the  alphabetical  series  of 
Schellhas.  The  Bacabs  are  deities  of  the  four  points 
of  the  compass,  and  are  represented  in  the  Dresden 
manuscript,  especially  in  the  familiar  pages  25  to  28, 
where  they  are  co-ordinated  with  the  signs  for  the 
compass  points.  The  Maya  of  Yucatan  believed  that 
these  Bacabs  were  four  brothers  whom  the  gods  had 
placed  at  the  four  corners  of  the  world  to  support  the 
heavens  and  keep  them  from  falling.  Landa  says 
that  their  collective  names  were  Uayayab,  "  they  by 
whom  the  year  is  poisoned,"  and  prefaces  to  this  the 


personal  names  Kan,  Chac,  Zac,  and  Ek,  but  these 
titles  merely  imply  "  yellow,"  "  red,"  "  white,"  and 
"  black,"  and  signify  the  colours  associated  with  the 
south,  east,  north,  and  west  respectively.  The 
Bacabs  had  also  a  funerary  significance,  and  their 
heads  in  stone  occasionally  appear  as  the  lids  of 
44  Canopic "  jars  found  in  Maya  tombs.  In  the 
41  Popol  Vuh,"  the  sacred  book  of  the  Maya-Quiche, 
these  Bacabs  are  alluded  to  by  the  generic  name  of 
Balan,  and  are  associated  with  the  four  winds. 
Shooting  stars  are  the  burning  stumps  of  gigantic 
cigars  which  they  fling  down  from  heaven.  When  it 
thunders  and  lightens  they  were  said  to  be  striking 
fire  to  light  their  cigars.  The  god  Chac  is  sometimes 
alluded  to  as  if  he  were  a  personification  of  the  Bacabs 
collectively,  and  seems  to  be  the  same  as  Schellhas's 

Zotz,  the  bat-god,  appears  to  have  been  the  deity 
of  the  Ah-Zotzil,  or  bat-folk,  a  tribe  long  settled  in 
the  vicinity  of  San  Cristobal  de  Chiapas,  as  well  as 
of  another  clan,  part  of  the  Kakchiquels  of  southern 
Guatemala.  In  the  "  Popal  Vuh  "  the  god  of  the 
Kakchiquel  is  called  Zotziha  Chimalcan,  and  after 
him  the  two  royal  lines  of  the  Kakchiquel  tribe  were 
named.  He  is  a  god  of  caverns,  and  had  a  twofold 
form  as  well  as  a  twofold  name,  which  seems  to  signify 
14  Bat's  House-Serpent  Shield."  Perhaps  the  name 
might  be  read  44  Serpent  Shield  (or  pond)  in  the  Place 
of  Darkness,"  and  may  refer  to  these  cenotes  or 
subterranean  wells  which  are  so  frequently  encoun- 
tered in  Yucatan,  because  of  the  constant  connection 
of  the  serpent  with  water  by  the  Maya.  In  any  case, 
Zotz  appears  to  have  been  connected  with  a  cult  whose 
worship  was  carried  on  in  caverns,  like  that  of  the 

The  Maya  designated  the  twenty-day  period  Zotz, 
after  this  god,  and  his  glyph  is  frequently  encountered 


on  the  Copan  reliefs.  On  one  of  the  temples  of  Copan 
is  a  relief  depicting  a  combat  between  this  god  and 
Kukulkan,  perhaps  an  allegory  of  the  strife  between 
light  and  darkness. 

In  the  Dresden  manuscript  a  deity  is  represented 
whose  face  appears  to  have  animal  characteristics. 
His  glyph  contains  an  element  which  occurs  in  the 
glyph  of  a  god  with  a  deer's  head  also  to  be  found  in 
the  Dresden  manuscript,  and  in  the  "  Codex  Tro- 
Cortesianus  "  in  a  glyph  denoting  weaving  or  em- 

The  goddess  who  acts  as  regent  of  the  Second  Period 
in  the  Dresden  manuscript,  does  not  seem  to  be  met 
with  elsewhere  in  the  manuscripts,  and  is  not  men- 
tioned in  Schellhas's  list.  Seler  believes  her  to  rep- 
resent the  planet  Venus.  Her  body  is  painted  red, 
and  on  the  front  of  the  trunk  are  the  vertebrae  and 
ribs  of  a  skeleton.  The  nose  curves  down  like  that  of 
God  B,  but  she  has  not  the  long,  crooked  teeth  and  the 
flourish  on  the  bridge  of  the  nose.  A  string  of  precious 
stones,  hanging  over  in  front  from  the  head-dress,  has 
attached  to  it  by  a  bow  the  glyph  of  the  planet  Venus. 
Seler  also  alludes  to  a  deity  who  figures  as  regent  of  the 
Fourth  Period  in  the  Dresden  manuscript.  He  says, 
"  He  is  obviously  a  war-like  divinity.  A  jaguar-skin 
is  wrapped  around  his  hips,  and  he  wears  on  his  breast 
a  disk  apparently  bordered  with  jaguar-skin.  As 
head-dress  he  wears  the  conventionalized  head  of  a 
bird  having  a  crest.  An  entire  bird  is  worn  as  an 
ear-peg,  with  the  head  stuck  toward  the  front  through 
the  much  enlarged  hole  in  the  lobe  of  the  ear.  There 
is  a  serpent's  head  before  his  mouth  (as  a  nose-peg  ?), 
and  the  head  of  a  bird  projects  over  his  forehead. 
The  face  painting  strikingly  recalls  that  of  the  Mexican 
Tezcatlipoca.  .  .  .  There  is,  in  front,  the  element 
which  in  the  hieroglyph  of  the  jaguar  is  combined 
with  the  abbreviated  jaguar  head,  and  in  other  places 


is  associated  with  the  cardinal  point  east,  probably 
denoting  a  colour  (red).  It  is  not  difficult  to  recognize 
the  element  kin,  sun,  at  the  right,  and  in  the  centre 
a  head  with  a  bleeding,  empty  eye-socket.  All  these 
are  elements  which  imply  that  he  is  a  war-god." 

If  we  now  look  for  any  of  these  gods  on  the  monu- 
ments of  Central  America  or  Yucatan,  we  shall  find 
that  little  has  been  done  to  locate  them  there,  or 
collate  them  in  any  way  with  the  figures  of  the 
manuscripts.  Indeed,  this  is  a  department  of  Maya 
archaeology  which  calls  loudly  for  research.  Dr. 
Spinden  writes  sanely  on  this  subject  and  on  the 
methods  of  collating  and  recognizing  deities  in  his 
excellent  monograph  on  Maya  art.  He  says,  "  Because 
of  the  natural  exuberance  of  Maya  art,  identification, 
even  of  gods,  is  far  from  easy.  Fewkes  declares  that 
in  any  attempt  to  classify  the  Maya  deities  the 
character  of  the  head  must  be  taken  as  the  basis. 
This  statement  is  true  within  certain  limits,  simply 
because  characterization  is  more  easily  expressed  in 
the  head  than  elsewhere,  especially  when  the  figures 
are  largely  anthropomorphic.  But  in  many  cases 
the  character  and  decoration  of  the  body  are  also 
significant  and  should  be  examined."  He  proceeds 
to  compare  certain  sculptures  with  God  B,  whom  he 
collates  with  a  long-nosed  manikin  god,  as  found  in 
sculptures  at  Quirigua,  and  sees  his  surrogate,  God  K, 
on  a  vase  in  the  American  Museum  of  Natural  History, 
the  representation  on  which,  however,  might  perhaps 
equally  well  apply  to  the  bat-god.  But  there  are 
clearer  indications  of  his  presence  in  details  from 
Copan  and  Yaxchilan.  God  D,  too,  he  finds  in  two 
sculptures  at  Yaxchilan,  in  the  form  of  the  earth- 
dragon.  "  On  Stela  I,  at  that  city,"  says  Dr.  Spinden, 
"  there  is  a  bust  of  a  human  being  or  of  a  god  directly 
over  the  centre  of  the  planet  strip  that  forms  the 
body  of  the  two-headed  monster,  and  its  resemblance 


to  God  D  of  the  codices  is  evident  at  the  first  glance. 
The  Roman  nose,  the  open  mouth  with  the  lips  drawn 
back,  the  wrinkles  on  the  cheek,  the  peculiar  tooth 
projecting  outward,  the  ornamented  eye  and  the 
flowing  hair  and  beard  are  all  features  that  occur  in 
the  Codices  in  connection  with  God  D.  The  air  of 
old  age  is  admirably  characterized." 

Spinden,  too,  sees  another  manifestation  of  God 
D  in  the  face-form  of  the  glyph  known  to  Mayologists 
as  Kin,  which  represents  a  single  day,  and  he  adduces 
sculptures  from  Copan,  Yaxchilan,  Chichen-Itza,  and 
Palenque  to  prove  his  contention.  He  finds,  too, 
further  representations  of  this  god  in  a  sculptured 
block  from  Copan  and  a  detail  from  Piedras  Negras, 
on  a  pottery  flask  from  the  Uloa  Valley,  as  well  as 
in  the  Atlantean  figures  that  support  the  altar  at 
Palenque.  He  has  seen,  too,  anthropomorphic  figures 
of  the  bat-god  at  Copan,  and  has  identified  his  glyph 
on  the  back  of  Stela  D  at  that  city. 

God  A  and  his  attributes  appear  in  connection  with 
many  conceptions  to  be  found  on  the  monuments, 
especially  at  Chichen-Itza,  Copan,  Tikal,  and  Palenque, 
a  distribution  which  bears  witness  to  a  far-flung 
worship  of  this  divinity.  Regarding  the  maize-god, 
E,  Spinden  says  :  "On  the  monuments  the  repre- 
sentation of  this  god  may  be  discerned  in  the  youth- 
ful figure  with  a  leafy  head-dress.  ...  It  occupies  a 
secondary  position  on  the  monuments,  but  the 
characters  are  constant  and  are,  moreover,  consistent 
with  those  appearing  on  the  figures  in  the  Codices. 
On  Stela  H  at  Copan,  several  small  human  beings  of 
this  type  .  .  .  may  be  seen  climbing  round  and  over 
the  interwoven  bodies  of  serpents.  At  Quirigua  the 
occurrence  is  similar  .  .  .  while  at  Tikal  the  head 
.  .  .  thrusts  itself  out  of  the  eye  of  a  richly  embel- 
lished serpent  head,  the  upturned  nose  of  which  is 
shaped  into  the  face  of  the  Roman-nosed  god  (D).  .  . . 


In  all  these  drawings  the  determining  feature  is  the 
bunches  of  circles  enclosed  in  leaf -like  objects  that 
may  represent  the  ear  of  maize  or  bursting  seed-pods. 
In  an  interesting  stucco  decoration  in  the  Palace  at 
Palenque  .  .  .  are  shown  comparable  circular  details 
as  well  as  maize-ears  rather  realistically  drawn,  while 
the  god  himself  appears  at  the  top  of  the  design. 
Details  which  seem  to  represent  ears  of  maize  or 
bursting  pods  are  recorded  in  a  drawing  by  Waldeck 
of  one  of  the  now  lost  tablets  of  Palenque.  The 
maize-ears  in  this  instance  seem  to  depend  from  the 
inverted  head  of  the  long-nosed  god.  The  form  of  the 
maize-god  in  all  these  instances  is  distinctly  human 
and  in  marked  contrast  to  the  other  deities  so  far 
considered.  The  beautiful  sculpture  from  the  facade 
of  Temple  22  at  Copan,  which  Maudslay  calls  a 
"  singing  girl,"  may  represent  the  youthful  maize- 
god.  Other  comparable  figures  from  the  same  building 
are  in  the  Peabody  Museum.  .  .  .  The  head-dress 
resembles  that  of  this  deity  as  given  in  the  Codices. 
There  is  clear  enough  evidence  that  the  faces  and 
figures  of  the  long-nosed  god  (B),  the  Roman-nosed 
god  (D),  and  the  death-god  (A)  were  used  to  decorate 
the  facades  of  temples  in  this  city,  and  the  usage  may 
have  included  other  deities  as  well.  Two  sculptured 
stones  from  the  terrace  east  of  the  Great  Plaza  at 
Copan  doubtless  bear  representations  of  the  maize- 

The  face  of  God  C  has  also  been  found  on  the  Hiero- 
glyphic Stairway  at  Copan,  part  of  which  is  now  in  the 
Peabody  Museum  and  in  inscriptions  at  Palenque  and 
Copan.  Gods  F  and  H  have  so  far  not  been  clearly 
identified  in  the  sculptures,  nor  have  L,  O,  or  P,  as  yet, 
been  encountered  on  stela  or  temple  wall.  The  pene- 
trative work  of  Spinden,  notwithstanding  the  great 
need  of  the  further  collation  of  the  manuscript  form, 
of  the  gods  with  those  depicted  on  the  monuments, 


not  only  in  major  form,  as  found,  but  in  lesser  detail 
and  grotesquerie,  is  obvious. 

Can  we  now  relate  these  forms,  pictured  and  sculp- 
tured, to  what  is  known  of  Maya  religious  tradition, 
and  try  to  gather  not  only  a  clearer  notion  of  the  iden- 
tity of  the  deities  in  question,  but  some  knowledge 
of  their  functions  and  worship  ?  Unfortunately, 
the  early  contemporary  notices  of  Maya  religion  are 
extraordinarily  scanty.  They  consist  almost  entirely 
of  the  "  Historia  del  Cielo  y  de  la  Tierra  "  of  Pedro 
de  Aguilar,  the  "  Historia  de  Yucatan  "  of  Fray  Diego 
Lopez,  the  account,  in  Las  Casas'  "  Historia  de  las 
Indias,"  of  Francisco  Hernandez,  the  "  Relacion  de 
las  cosas  de  Yucatan  "  of  Diego  de  Landa,  and  the 
"  Constituciones  Diocesianus  "  of  Nunez  de  la  Vega, 
as  well  as  the  "  Documentos  Ineditos,"  published  at 
Madrid,  and  containing  fugitive  and  sometimes 
anonymous  notices  of  native  beliefs  and  customs. 

From  these  it  is  only  a  fragmentary  account  of  the 
Maya  pantheon  which  we  can  glean.  The  religion  of 
the  Maya  seems  to  have  possessed  few  divine  figures  of 
note,  as  Hernandez  remarks,  and  he  adds  that  the 
"  principal  lords  "  alone  were  acquainted  with  the 
history  of  the  gods,  their  myths  and  allegories.  The 
spirit  of  the  religion  appears  to  have  been  dualistic. 
We  witness,  indeed,  a  dualism  almost  as  complete  as 
that  of  ancient  Persia — the  conflict  between  light  and 
darkness.  Opposing  each  other  we  behold  on  the 
one  hand  the  deities  of  the  sun,  the  gods  of  warmth 
and  light,  of  civilization  and  the  joy  of  life,  and  on 
the  other  the  deities  of  darksome  death,  of  night, 
gloom,  and  fear.  From  these  primal  conceptions  of 
light  and  darkness  all  the  mythologic  forms  of  the 
Maya  are  evolved.  When  we  catch  the  first  recorded 
glimpses  of  Maya  belief  we  recognize  that  at  the  period 
when  it  came  under  the  purview  of  Europeans  the 
gods  of  darkness  were  in  the  ascendant  and  a  deep 


pessimism  had  spread  over  Maya  thought  and 
theology.  Its  joyful  side  was  subordinated  to  the 
worship  of  gloomy  beings,  the  deities  of  death  and 
hell,  and  if  the  cult  of  light  was  attended  with  such 
touching  fidelity,  it  was  because  the  benign  agencies 
who  were  worshipped  in  connection  with  it  had 
promised  not  to  desert  mankind  altogether,  but  to 
return  at  some  future  indefinite  period  and  resume 
their  sway  of  radiance  and  peace. 

The  heavenly  bodies  had  important  representation 
in  the  Maya  pantheon.  In  Yucatan  the  sun-god  was 
known  as  Kinich-ahau  (Lord  of  the  Face  of  the  Sun). 
He  was  identified  with  the  Fire-bird,  or  arara,  and 
was  thus  called  Kinich-Kakmo  (Fire-bird ;  lit. 
Sun-bird).  He  was  also  the  presiding  genius  of  the 
north.  Sacrifices  to  him  were  made  at  midday,  when 
it  was  believed  that  the  deity  descended  in  the  shape 
of  the  arara  or  macaw.  Such  ceremonies  were 
especially  performed  in  times  of  pestilence  or  de- 
struction of  the  crops  by  locusts.  But  this  god  was 
probably  much  less  prominent  in  the  public  mind 
than  the  greater  solar  deities,  and  his  attributes  were 
occasionally  assigned  to  Itzamna.  He  is  certainly 

Itzamna,  one  of  the  most  important  of  the  Maya 
deities,  was  a  deity  of  moisture,  the  father  of  gods  and 
men.  In  him  was  typified  the  decay  and  recurrence 
of  life  in  nature.  His  name  was  derived  from  the 
words  he  was  supposed  to  have  given  to  men  regarding 
himself  :  "  Itz  en  caan,  itz  en  muyal  "  ("  I  am  the  dew 
of  the  heaven,  I  am  the  dew  of  the  clouds  ").  He  was 
tutelar  deity  of  the  west.  Itzamna  may  indeed  be 
regarded  as  the  chief  of  the  Maya  pantheon.  "  He 
received,"  says  Brinton,  "  the  name  Lakin  chan, 
the  Serpent  of  the  East,  under  which  he  seems  to 
have  been  popularly  known.  As  light  is  synonymous 
with  both  life  and  knowledge,  he  was  said  to  have 


been  the  creator  of  men,  animals,  and  plants,  and  was 
the  founder  of  the  culture  of  the  Mayas.  He  was  the 
first  priest  of  their  religion,  and  invented  writing  and 
books  ;  he  gave  the  names  to  the  various  localities 
in  Yucatan,  and  divided  the  land  among  the  people  ; 
as  a  physician  he  was  famous,  knowing  not  only  the 
magic  herbs,  but  possessing  the  power  of  healing  by 
touch,  whence  his  name  Kabil,  '  the  skilful  hand,' 
under  which  he  was  worshipped  in  Chichen-Itza.  For 
his  wisdom  he  was  spoken  of  as  Yax  coc  ahmut, 
6  the  royal  or  noble  master  of  knowledge.' '  He  was, 
indeed,  the  son  of  Hunab-Ku,  the  great  and  unseen 
divine  spirit  behind  the  pantheon  of  the  Maya.  The 
centre  of  his  cult  was  the  city  of  Izamal,  to  which 
pilgrimage  was  made  from  all  parts  of  Yucatan.  As 
has  been  said,  he  is  probably  God  K,  although  some 
students  of  the  Codices  identify  him  with  God  D. 

Ekchuah  was  the  god  of  travellers,  to  whom  they 
burned  copal.  He  is  certainly  God  M.  He  is  painted 
the  colour  of  cocoa,  the  merchant's  staple  of  exchange. 
There  were  quite  a  number  of  war-gods,  and  it  is 
difficult  to  know  which  of  them  should  be  identified 
with  God  F  of  the  Codices  ;  whether  Uac  Lorn  Chaam, 
"  He  whose  teeth  are  six  lances,"  worshipped  at 
Merida,  Ahulane  "  the  Archer,"  depicted  as  holding 
an  arrow,  whose  shrine  was  on  the  island  of  Cozumel, 
Pakoc,  "the  Frightener,"  or  Hex  Chun  Chan, 
"  The  Dangerous  One."  The  last  two  were  especially 
gods  of  the  Itzaes  of  Yucatan.  Kac-u-pacat,  "  Fiery 
Face,"  carried  in  battle  a  shield  of  fire,  Ah  Chuy 
Kak,  "  Fiery  Destroyer,"  Ah  Cun  Can,  "  The  Serpent 
Charmer,"  and  Hun  Pic  Tok,  "  He  of  8000  lances," 
were  all  divinities  of  war. 

Now  God  F  is  pictured  much  more  frequently  in  the 
"  Codex  Peresianus  "  than  elsewhere  and,  as  we  have 
seen,  that  manuscript  probably  came  from  the  district 
of  Peten,  immediately  to  the  south  of  the  Yucatec 


peninsula.  We  may  then  dismiss  the  idea  that  he  is 
closely  associated  with  the  war-gods  of  Northern 
Yucatan,  who  were  nothing  if  not  distinctly  tribal. 
In  all  probability  he  is  a  much  older  warrior  deity  of 
the  people  of  the  settled  district  of  Peten.  It  is, 
however,  not  a  little  strange  that  his  body-paint 
closely  resembles  that  of  the  Nahua  war-god  Uitzilo- 

Xamanek,  the  North  Star,  has  already  been  identi- 
fied with  God  C,  and  A  with  Ahpuch,  the  death-god. 
D  is  evidently  a  lunar  deity.  But  although  we  find  a 
moon  goddess  in  Maya  myth,  Ix-hunye,  there  seems 
to  be  no  record  of  a  male  lunar-god.  God  E,  as  has 
been  said,  is  the  maize-god,  Yum  Kaax,  "  Lord  of 
Harvests."  God  H  is  rather  puzzling.  He  is  certainly 
a  deity  of  serpentine  character,  but  that  is  to  be  in- 
ferred from  the  serpent-skin  mark  upon  his  forehead. 
I  believe  him  to  be  a  variant  or  surrogate  of  Itzamna, 
one  of  whose  minor  names  was  Lakin  Chan,  "  the 
Serpent  of  the  East,"  by  which  he  seems  to  have  been 
popularly  known. 

All  this  goes  to  show  that  while  we  can  safely 
identify  several  of  the  gods  of  Schellhas's  list  with  the 
known  figures  of  the  Maya  pantheon,  others  cannot 
be  equated  at  present  with  any  known  Maya  divine 
figure.  A  (Ahpuch),  B  (Kukulkan),  C  (Xamanek), 
E  (Yum-Kaax),  G  (Kinich-ahau),  K  (Itzamna),  and 
M  (Ekchuah),  can  reasonably  be  regarded  as  identified 
with  the  names  bracketed.  The  rest  remain  uncer- 
tain or  unknown. 

It  is  not  that  the  Maya  pantheon  has  not  many  other 
deities  besides  these  embraced  by  the  alphabetic  gods 
of  the  manuscripts.  The  names  of  many  other  Maya 
gods  are  known  to  us,  only  we  are  either  unaware  of 
their  outward  appearance,  or  the  circumstances  of 
their  descriptions  do  not  tally  with  the  pictorial  forms 
of  the  gods  in  the  three  Maya  manuscripts.  Of  Ixtab , 


the  goddess  of  suicides,  we  know  that  she  was  also  a 
goddess  of  ropes  and  snares  for  wild  animals,  and 
therefore  probably  had  a  textile  significance  originally. 
She  seems  to  be  pictured  in  some  of  the  manuscripts. 
Cum  Ahau,  "  Lord  of  the  Vase,"  or  of  the  Rains, 
we  may,  perhaps,  identify  as  a  phase  of  Itzamna. 
Zuhuy  Kak,  "  Virgin  Fire,"  appears  as  a  patroness  of 
infants,  and  Zuhuy  Dzip,  is  a  species  of  Maya  Diana, 
a  divine  huntress  of  the  woods.  Ah  Kak  Nech  was 
the  deity  of  the  domestic  hearth,  and  Ah  Ppua  and  Ah 
Dziz  were  divinities  of  fishermen. 

Lesser  departmental  deities  and  caste  gods 
abounded.  Acan  was  the  god  of  intoxication,  resemb- 
ling the  pulque  gods  of  Mexico.  Ix  Tub  Tun,  "  She 
who  spits  out  Precious  Stones,"  was  the  goddess  of 
workers  in  jade  and  amethyst,  and  bears  a  marked 
likeness  to  a  Japanese  goddess  who  similarly  ejects 
precious  stones.  Cit  Bolon  Turn  was  a  god  of  medi- 
cines, and  Xoc  Bitum  a  god  of  song.  The  Maya,  to 
their  honour,  had  also  a  god  of  poetry,  Ab  Kin  Xoc 
or  Ppiz  Hiu  Tec,  and  Ix  Chebel  Yax  was  the  first 
inventress  of  coloured  designs  on  woven  stuffs. 

We  labour,  then,  under  the  dual  disability  of  a  lack, 
almost  unparalleled,  of  early  descriptive  sources  and 
the  impossibility  in  many  cases  of  collating  Maya 
divine  figures  as  described  in  myth  with  the  pictured 
and  sculptured  representatives  of  the  pantheon. 
This  would  seem  to  imply  that  Maya  mythology,  as 
we  know  it,  belonged  to  a  different  age  from  the 
manuscripts.  The  sculptured  representations  of  the 
gods,  too,  may  represent  a  period  apart  from  either. 
We  can,  by  means  of  the  dates  which  usually  accom- 
pany them,  fix  approximately  the  period  of  the  sculp- 
tured forms  which,  so  far  as  Guatemala  is  concerned, 
are  obviously  older  than  the  manuscripts  or  myths, 
dating  roughly  as  they  do  from  about  A.D.  330  to  600. 
It  would  then  seem  to  be  indicated  that  we  should 


take  as  a  basis  these  sculptured  forms,  conscientiously 
collect  and  collate  both  those  of  Guatemala  and 
Yucatan,  and  fix  their  dates  as  far  as  possible,  group- 
ing them  in  chronological  order.  This  task  accom- 
plished, a  careful  comparison  of  their  forms  should 
be  made  with  those  in  the  manuscripts,  a  process  which 
should  result  in  the  approximate  fixation  of  the  dates 
of  these  paintings,  and  enlighten  us  more  convincingly 
regarding  their  spheres  of  provenance.  Then,  with 
increased  confidence,  it  might  be  possible  to  apply 
the  mythic  descriptions  to  this  better  charted  and 
chronologically  fixed  picture-gallery  of  the  Maya  gods. 
In  some  such  system  of  examination  and  research, 
in  the  writer's  estimate,  resides  the  best  hope  for  an 
increased  knowledge  of  the  Maya  pantheon. 

Until  further  research  of  this  nature  has  been  given 
to  the  subject,  it  will,  however,  be  wise  to  retain 
Schellhas's  alphabetical  nomenclature,  which  our 
present  knowledge  and  data  have  by  no  means  out- 


BY  far  the  most  striking  passage  in  the  literature 
dealing  with  the  Maya  which  refers  to  magic  is 
that  to  be  found  in  the  "  Constituciones  Dio- 
cesianos  de  Chiapas  "  of  Nunez  de  la  Vega,  Bishop  of 
Chiapas,  relating  to  a  book  in  the  Quiche  tongue, 
said  to  have  been  written  by  Votan  or  Quetzalcoatl, 
which  the  Bishop  made  use  of  in  his  work,  but  ulti- 
mately destroyed  in  his  holocaust  of  native  manu- 
scripts at  Heuheutlan  in  1 691 .  One,  Ordonez  de  Aguilar, 
had,  however,  made  a  copy  of  it  before  its  destruction, 
and  incorporated  it  in  his  "  Historia  de  Cielo  "  MS. 
In  this  work  Votan  declared  himself  "  a  snake,"  a 
descendant  of  Imos,  of  the  line  of  Chan,  of  the  race  of 
Chivim.  Taking  Aguilar's  account  along  with  that  of 
Nunez  de  la  Vega,  as  both  rely  upon  the  same  author- 
ity, we  find  that  Votan  proceeded  to  America  by 
divine  command,  his  mission  being  to  lay  the  founda- 
tion of  civilization.  With  this  object  in  view  he 
departed  from  Valum  Chivim,  passing  "  the  dwelling 
of  the  thirteen  snakes,"  and  arrived  in  Valum  Votan, 
whence,  with  some  members  of  his  family,  he  set  out 
to  form  a  settlement,  ascending  the  Usumacinta 
River  and  ultimately  founding  Palenque.  By  reason 
of  their  peculiar  dress  the  Tzendal  Indians  called 
them  TzequitUs,  or  "  men  with  shirts,"  but  consented 
to  amalgamate  with  them.  Ordonez  states  that  when 
Votan  had  established  himself  at  Palenque  he  made 



several  visits  to  his  original  home.  On  one  of  these 
he  came  to  a  tower  which  had  been  intended  to  reach 
the  heavens,  a  project  which  had  been  brought  to 
naught  by  the  linguistic  confusion  of  those  who 
conceived  it.  Finally,  he  was  permitted  to  reach 
"  the  rock  of  heaven  "  by  a  subterranean  passage. 
Returning  to  Palenque,  he  found  that  others  of  his 
race  had  arrived  there,  and  with  them  he  made  a 
friendly  pact.  He  built  a  temple  by  the  Heuheutan 
River,  known,  from  its  subterranean  chambers  as 
"  the  House  of  Darkness,"  and  here  he  deposited  the 
national  records  under  the  charge  of  certain  old  men 
called  tlapianes,  or  guardians,  and  an  order  of  priest- 
esses. Here  also  were  kept  a  number  of  tapirs.  A 
quotation  of  the  passage  dealing  with  this  temple 
may  be  made  from  Nunez  de  la  Vega  : 

"  Votan  is  the  third  heathen  in  the  calendar  (that 
is  the  deity  who  is  ascribed  to  the  Third  Division  of 
the  calendar),  and  in  the  little  history  written  in  the 
Indian  language  all  the  provinces  and  cities  in  which 
he  tarried  were  mentioned  ;  and  to  this  day  there  is 
always  a  clan  in  the  city  of  Teopisa  that  they  call  the 
Votans.  It  is  also  said  that  he  is  the  lord  of  the  hollow 
wooden  instrument  which  they  call  tepanaguaste  (that 
is,  the  Mexican  drum  or  teponaztli) ;  that  he  saw  the 
great  wall,  namely,  the  Tower  of  Babel,  which  was 
built  from  earth  to  heaven  at  the  bidding  of  his  grand- 
father, Noah  ;  and  that  he  was  the  first  man  whom 
God  sent  to  divide  and  apportion  this  country 
of  India,  and  that  there,  where  he  saw  the  great  wall, 
he  gave  to  every  nation  its  special  language.  It  is 
related  that  he  tarried  in  Huehueta  (which  is  a  city  in 
Soconusco),  and  that  there  he  placed  a  tapir  and  a 
great  treasure  in  a  slippery  (damp,  dark,  subterranean) 
house,  which  he  built  by  the  breath  of  his  nostrils,  and 
he  appointed  a  woman  as  chieftain,  with  tapianes 
(that  is,  Mexican  tlapiani,  "  keepers  ")  to  guard  her. 


This  treasure  consisted  of  jars,  which  were  closed  with 
covers  of  the  same  clay,  and  of  a  room  in  which  the 
pictures  of  the  ancient  heathens  who  are  in  the  calen- 
dar were  engraved  in  stone,  together  with  chalchiuites 
(which  are  small,  heavy,  green  stones)  and  other 
superstitious  images  ;  and  the  chieftainess  herself 
and  the  tapianes,  her  guardians,  surrendered  all  these 
things,  which  were  publicly  burned  in  the  market- 
place of  Huehueta  when  we  inspected  the  aforesaid 
province  in  1691.  All  the  Indians  greatly  revered 
this  Votan,  and  in  a  certain  province  they  call  him 
'  heart  of  the  cities  '  (Corazon  de  los  pueblos)." 

This  account  gives  us  a  general  impression  of  the 
arcane  nature  of  Maya  magic.  It  reveals  that  it  was 
practised  by  a  separate  caste  and  in  secret,  and  that 
Quetzalcoatl  or  Kukulkan  was  its  founder.  Side 
by  side  with  the  official  priesthood  existed  a  class 
devoted  to  the  study  of  sorcery,  known  as  ah-cuyah 
and  ah-tun,  or  ah-tzyacyah,  with  whom  may  be  associ- 
ated those  called  pulahoobs,  or  practisers  of  divination. 
According  to  Landa,  a  high  priest  of  the  Maya  of 
Yucatan  was  called  Abkin  Mai,  whose  office  was 

We  also  find  a  class  of  priests  known  as  the 
Chilan,  or  "  tigers,"  who  appear  to  have  been  chiefly 
devoted  to  oracular  pursuits  and  studies.  They 
announced  the  will  of  the  gods,  whose  mouthpieces 
they  were,  and  uttered  prophecies.  Says  Daniel 
Garrison  Brinton  in  his  pamphlet  on  "  The  Books  of 
Chilan  Balam,"  the  Tiger  Priesthood  : 

"  There  are  not  wanting  actual  prophecies  of  a 
striking  character.  These  were  attributed  to  the 
ancient  priests  and  to  a  date  long  preceding  the  advent 
of  Christianity.  Some  of  them  have  been  printed  in 
translations  in  the  '  Historias  '  of  Lizana  and  Cogol- 
ludo,  and  of  some  the  originals  were  published  by 
the  late  Abbe*  Brasseur  de  Bourbourg,  in  the  second 


volume  of  the  reports  of  the  '  Mission  Scientifique  au 
Mexique  et  dans  1*  Amerique  Centrale.'  Their  authen- 
ticity has  been  met  with  considerable  scepticism  by 
Waitz  and  others,  particularly  as  they  seem  to  predict 
the  arrival  of  the  Christians  from  the  East  and  the 
introduction  of  the  worship  of  the  cross. 

"  It  appears  to  me  that  this  incredulity  is  uncalled 
for.  It  is  known  that  at  the  close  of  each  of  their 
larger  divisions  of  time  (the  so-called  *  katuns  '),  a 
4  chilan,'  or  inspired  diviner,  uttered  a  prediction  of 
the  character  of  the  year  or  epoch  which  was  about 
to  begin.  Like  other  would-be  prophets,  he  had 
doubtless  learned  that  it  is  wiser  to  predict  evil  than 
good,  inasmuch  as  the  probabilities  of  evil  in  this 
worried  world  of  ours  outweigh  those  of  good  ;  and 
when  the  evil  comes  his  words  are  remembered  to  his 
credit,  while,  if,  perchance,  his  gloomy  forecasts  are 
not  realized  no  one  will  bear  him  a  grudge  that  he 
has  been  at  fault.  The  temper  of  this  people  was, 
moreover,  gloomy,  and  it  suited  them  to  hear  of 
threatened  danger  and  destruction  by  foreign  foes. 

"  Here  is  one  of  the  prophecies  in  question  : 

'  What  time  the  sun  shall  brightest  shine, 
Tearful  will  be  the  eyes  of  the  king. 
Four  ages  yet  shall  be  inscribed, 
Then  shall  come  the  holy  priest,  the  holy  god. 
With  grief  I  speak  what  now  I  see. 
Watch  well  the  road,  ye  dwellers  in  Itza. 
The  master  of  the  earth  shall  come  to  us. 
Thus  prophesies  Nahau  Pech,  the  seer, 
In  the  days  of  the  fourth  age, 
At  the  time  of  its  beginning.'  " 

Father  Lizana  has  much  to  say  regarding  the  oracles 
of  the  Maya  city  of  Itzamal,  in  his  tract  on  "  Our 
Lady  of  Itzamal,"  published  in  1663.  He  tells  us  that 
in  the  days  of  Maya  paganism  the  numerous  kus, 
or  pyramids,  which  are  to  be  found  in  Yucatan, 
were  the  seats  of  deities  who  spoke  in  frequent  oracular 


utterance  to  the  priests.  There  horoscopes  were  cast. 
In  Itzamal  was  an  idol  known  as  Itzmatul,  "  that 
which  holds  the  substance  of  heaven,"  that  is  the  rain. 

Itzmatul,  or  Itzamna,  once  a  living  king,  when  dead 
became  an  oracle,  and  people  from  far  and  near 
crowded  to  his  pyramid  to  consult  his  spirit,  chiefly 
about  things  to  come.  The  dead  were  also  frequently 
carried  thence  in  the  hope  that  they  might  be  re- 
stored to  life,  and  the  sick  that  health  might  be 
bestowed  upon  them. 

For  this  particular  purpose  a  second  ku,  or  temple, 
was  raised  to  Itzamna  in  his  form  of  Kab-ul,  or  "  the 
Magic  Hand,"  the  hand  which  could,  with  a  touch, 
bestow  life.  Here  offerings  of  the  richest  kind  were 
made.  Pilgrims  came  to  the  shrine  by  way  of  four 
roads  set  in  the  directions  of  the  four  winds,  which 
extended  to  the  extremities  of  the  country. 

The  god  was  supposed  to  descend  upon  his  altar  at 
midday,  and  the  priests  then  acquainted  the  devotees 
with  the  answer  he  gave  to  their  petitions.  These 
priests  were  the  Ah-kin,  or  prophets. 

The  astrological  system  of  the  Maya  closely  re- 
sembled that  of  the  Mexicans,  but  was  of  much  more 
ancient  origin  and  had  reached  a  higher  level  of 
development  though  it  did  not  occupy  so  prominent 
a  place  in  Maya  ritual.  Its  significance  and  the 
duration  of  its  tonalamatl,  or  "  calendar,"  were 
identical  with  the  Mexican,  and  its  ritual  "  week  "  of 
thirteen  days  was  divided  into  four  quarters,  each  of 
which  was  under  the  auspices  of  a  different  quarter 
of  the  heavens,  and  a  particular  deity.  So  far  as 
augural  purposes  were  concerned  it  had  no  connection 
with  the  calendar  proper  or  the  time-counts  alluded  to 
in  the  chapter  on  Maya  civilization.  Indeed,  we  are 
not  here  concerned  with  the  question  of  time,  but  with 
that  of  Maya  occult  lore,  so  cannot  enter  into  a 
discussion  of  the  large  question  of  Maya  chronology. 






ChiccJxm  Cirm 









Eoanab  Cauac 



From  the  account  of  Nunez  de  la  Vega,  as  from  that 
of  Francisco  Fernandez,  it  appears  that  each  of  the 
twenty  days  of  the  week  was  dedicated  to  a 
governing  deity.  They  supply,  however,  no  precise 
list  of  these,  and  it  is  due  to  the  industry  of  Professor 
Paul  Schellhas  and  Dr.  Forstemann  that  we  are 
enabled  to  furnish  an  approximation  to  such  a  list. 


1.  Kan  (Maize)     . 

2.  Chiccan  (Serpent) 

3.  Cimi  (Death)    . 

4.  Manik  (Deer  ?) 

5.  Laraat  (planting  ?) 

6.  Muluc  (cloud)  . 

7.  Oc  (dog  ?) 

8.  Chuen  (monkey) 

9.  Eb  (grass) 

10.  Ben  (reed) 

11.  Ix  (jaguar) 

12.  Men  (moan  bird) 

13.  Cib  (vulture)    . 

14.  Caban  (earth)  . 

15.  Ezanab  (knife) 

16.  Cauac  (rain) 

17.  Ahau  (god  Ahau) 

18.  Imix  (honey)    . 

19.  Ik  (air)    . 

20.  Akbal  (darkness) 

Presiding  god 
God  A 

Grain-god  (?) 

A  goddess 
Chahalhuc  (?) 
God  G  (?) 
The  vulture-being 
The  Four  Bacabs,  or  deities 

of  the  four  quarters 
God  I  (?) 
God  D,  or  Ahau 
God  B  (Kukulkan) 

The  means  by  which  these  signs,  and  these  of  the 
l*  months  "  were  used  for  divinatory  purposes  were 
the  same  as  in  the  case  of  the  Mexican  system,  that 
is,  the  auspicious  were  weighed  against  the  evil,  and 
thus  a  balance  was  struck. 


We  can  now  proceed  to  discuss  the  magical  sig- 
nificance of  the  various  periods  of  time,  but  here  there 
is  no  need  to  treat  of  them  as  chronological  units. 

As  we  have  seen,  the  Bacabs  presided  over  the 
points  of  the  compass.  These  were  thought  of  as 
being  beset  by  demons  called  Uayeyab,  who  were 
driven  out  by  magical  ceremonies.  Great  statues  of 
stone  representing  the  Bacabs  were  placed  on  the 
several  roads  converging  on  a  village,  and  at  the  end 
of  the  year  pottery  figures  of  the  fertility  god  were 
placed  so  as  to  influence  them.  The  priests,  accom- 
panied by  the  people,  gathered  together  and  offered 
incense  to  the  idols  of  the  Bacabs,  sacrificing  fowls 
in  front  of  them,  then  they  placed  the  image  dedicated 
to  the  year  on  a  litter  and  carried  :t  to  the  house  of 
the  chief,  where  presents  were  placed  before  it,  and 
sacrifices  made  to  it  by  drawing  blood  from  the  ears. 
The  statue  was  permitted  to  remain  in  position  until 
the  five  unlucky  days  at  the  end  of  the  year  were 
over,  when  the  Uayeyab  was  supposed  to  have  been 
scared  away  and  the  new  year  to  have  begun  aus- 
piciously. The  four  Bacabs  had  each  a  year  in 
which  they  were  thus  chosen  as  guardians  and  were 
opposed  by  different  Uayeyabs,  which  took  the  names 
of  the  four  different  colours  of  the  compass. 

As  regards  the  significance  of  the  months  of  the 
Maya  year  and  their  days,  Pop,  the  first  month,  was 
regarded  with  much  solemnity.  It  was  essentially  a 
time  of  purification,  when  houses  were  cleaned  and 
ashpits  emptied,  nor  must  one  take  condiments  with 
his  food  during  its  course. 

During  the  month  Uo  the  priests,  mediciners,  and 
sorcerers  held  a  festival  for  the  hunters  and  fishers, 
invoking  the  aid  of  Itzamna,  and  examining  in  their 
sacred  books  the  omens  for  the  year.  They  accord- 
ingly took  precautions  against  evil  happenings.  In 
the  month  Zip  the  sorcerers  gathered  in  their  quarters 


along  with  their  wives  for  the  worship  of  the  Gods  of 
Medicine,  Itzamna,  Cit-Bolan-Tun,  and  Ahau-Chama- 
hez,  and  the  Goddess  of  Medicine,  Ixchak,  and  danced 
symbolical  and  magical  dances. 

In  the  month  Yax  the  prognostications  of  the 
Bacabs  were  made.  In  the  month  known  as  Mac  a 
strange  magical  allegory  was  celebrated.  Wild 
animals  were  assembled  in  the  court  of  the  temple  of 
the  Rain-gods,  and  a  priest  carrying  a  vase  of  water 
presided.  He  set  fire  to  a  heap  of  dry  wood.  He  then 
took  the  hearts  from  the  captive  wild  beasts  and  cast 
them  into  the  flames,  and  as  regards  such  animals  as 
were  not  available,  their  hearts  were  modelled  in 
incense  gum  and  thrown  into  the  blaze.  Then  he 
extinguished  the  embers  of  the  flame  with  the  water 
he  carried.  The  intention  was  to  secure  an  abundance 
of  water  for  the  grain  during  the  year,  and  the  magical 
significance  of  the  rite  was  the  metamorphosis  of  blood 
into  rain,  the  fierce  blood  of  the  forest  animals  being 
regarded  as  more  intense  in  its  action  than  any  other. 

From  these  notices  it  is  clear  that  few  of  the 
mensual  festivals  had  a  magical  significance.  Of  the 
astrological  qualities  of  the  several  days  of  the  year 
or  months  we  are  ignorant,  but  it  is  most  probable 
that  in  this  respect  they  were  similar  in  their  influence 
to  those  in  the  Aztec  tonalamatl. 

The  Venus  period  was  also  regarded  by  the  Maya 
as  a  season  of  magical  influence.  In  the  Dresden 
manuscript  we  see  a  god  casting  his  spear  at  the 
"  various  classes  of  people,"  as  we  are  told  was  the 
case  in  Mexico.  These  are  the  same  as  in  the  Aztec 
MSS.,  but  the  Maya  deities  who  cast  the  missiles  differ 
from  the  Aztec.  In  the  first  place  it  is  God  K,  in 
the  second  the  God  Chac,  in  the  third  God  E,  whilst 
the  remaining  two  are  obscure  ;  but  Seler  believes 
these  figures  to  represent  planetary  conjunctions 
having  a  special  astrological  and  magical  significance. 


He  says  :  "It  is  hardly  possible  to  see  anything  else 
in  these  figures  struck  by  the  spear  than  augural 
speculations  regarding  the  influence  of  the  light  from 
the  planet,  suggested  by  the  initial  signs  of  the  periods. 
We  shall  have  to  accept  this  as  true,  but  not  only  for 
the  representations  of  the  Borgian  Codex  group 
(Mexican),  but  also  for  the  pictorial  representations 
and  the  hieroglyphic  text  of  the  Dresden  manuscript " 

Augury  was  also  influenced  by  the  Bacabs,  or  deities 
of  the  four  quarters.  These  were  called  Kan,  Muluc, 
Ix,  and  Cauac,  and  represented  the  east,  north,  west, 
and  south  respectively.  Their  symbolic  colours  were 
yellow,  white,  black,  and  red.  They  had  an  influence 
upon  certain  years  in  the  calendar.  The  "  astrology  " 
of  the  Maya  is  unfortunately  most  obscure  owing  to 
the  paucity  of  the  data  concerning  it  and  the  necessity 
for  much  further  study  of  the  glyphs  and  calendar- 
system,  which  is  by  no  means  so  far  advanced  as  that 
of  the  Mexican  tonalamatl. 

The  superstitions  of  the  Maya  are  likewise  difficult 
to  come  at.  During  the  five  days  at  the  end  of  the 
year  people  in  Mexico  were  careful  not  to  fall  asleep 
during  the  day,  nor  to  quarrel  or  trip  in  walking, 
because  they  believed  that  what  they  then  did  "  they 
would  continue  to  do  for  evermore."  We  find  the 
same  notion  in  Yucatan.  On  these  days  men  left  the 
house  as  seldom  as  possible,  did  not  wash  or  comb 
themselves,  and  took  special  care  not  to  undertake 
any  menial  or  difficult  task,  doubtless  because  they 
were  convinced  that  they  would  be  forced  to  do  this 
kind  of  work  throughout  the  whole  ensuing  year. 
The  Mexicans  were  more  passive  in  regard  to  these 
days,  inasmuch  as  they  merely  took  care  to  avoid 
conjuring  up  mischief  for  the  coming  year,  while  the 
Maya  did  things  more  thoroughly,  as  we  have  seen 
when  dealing  with  the  Uayayeb  festival. 


Maya  demonology  is  obscure.  A  sinister  figure,  the 
prince  of  the  Maya  legions  of  darkness,  is  the  bat -god, 
Zotzilaha  Chimalman,  who  dwelt  in  the  "  House  of 
Bats,"  a  gruesome  cavern  on  the  way  to  the  abodes 
of  darkness  and  death.  He  is  undoubtedly  a  relic 
of  cave- worship  pure  and  simple.  "  The  Maya," 
says  an  old  chronicler,  "  have  an  immoderate  fear  of 
death,  and  they  seem  to  have  given  it  a  figure  pecu- 
liarly repulsive."  We  shall  find  this  deity  alluded  to 
in  the  "  Popol  Vuh,"  under  the  name  Camazotz,  in 
close  proximity  to  the  Lords  of  Death  and  Hell, 
attempting  to  bar  the  journey  of  the  hero-gods  across 
these  dreary  realms.  He  is  frequently  met  with  on 
the  Copan  reliefs,  and  a  Maya  clan,  the  Ah-zotzils, 
were  called  by  his  name.  They  were  of  Kakchiquel 
origin,  and  he  was  probably  their  totem. 

Indeed,  more  than  one  Maya  tribe  was  called  after 
him,  and  he  was  evidently  a  "  nagual  "  or  tribal 
animal-sorcerer  and  guardian.  The  fact  that  he  is 
called  "  this  Xibalba  "  in  the  "  Popol  Vuh  "  shows 
that  he  is  of  plutonic  nature,  a  deity  of  the  Under- 
world. He  is  also  the  vampire-beast  of  darkness  who 
combats  the  sun-god  and  swallows  his  light. 

The  dog,  pek,  was  the  symbol  of  the  death-god  and 
the  bearer  of  the  lightning.  But  he  has  also  a  stellar 
significance,  and  probably  represents  some  star  or 
constellation  as  at  times  he  is  dotted  with  spots  to 
represent  stars.  We  see  him  also  playing  on  the 
medicine  drum.  Another  horrible  figure  associated 
with  the  death-god  is  the  moan  bird,  a  noxious  cloud- 
spirit,  represented  in  the  manuscripts  by  a  bird  of 
the  falcon  species. 

We  can  glean  much  regarding  the  magical  propen- 
sities of  the  Maya  priesthood  from  a  study  of  the 
customs  of  the  related  Zapotec  priests  of  southern 
Mexico,  whose  religion  was  of  Maya  origin.  Their 
high  priests  were  known  as  Uija-tao,  or  "  great  seer," 


and  their  chief  function  was  evidently  to  consult  the 
gods  in  important  matters  relating  either  to  the 
community  or  to  individuals.  We  have  already  seen 
in  Burgoa's  account  of  Mitla  how  the  high  priest 
conferred  with  the  deities  on  the  occasion  of  a  human 
sacrifice,  placing  himself  in  an  ecstatic  state,  and  how 
they  were  regarded  as  the  living  images  of  Quetzal- 
coatl  or  Kukulkan. 

That  they  employed  stones  for  scrying  or  visionary 
purposes  is  clear  from  the  following  passage  from 
Seler's  essay  on  "  The  Deities  and  Religious  Concep- 
tions of  the  Zapotecs." 

"  As  Yoopaa,  or  Mictlan,  was  the  holy  city  of  the 
Zapotecs,  so  Nuundecu,  or  Achiotlan,  was  the  holy 
city  of  the  Mixtecs,  where  the  high  priest  had  his 
abode  and  where  there  was  a  far-famed  oracle,  which 
indeed  King  Motecuhzoma  is  said  to  have  consulted 
when  he  was  disturbed  by  the  news  of  the  landing 
of  Cortes.  The  chief  sanctuary  was  situated  on  the 
highest  peak  of  a  mountain.  Here,  as  Father  Burgoa 
relates,  there  was  among  other  altars  one  of  an  idol 
"  which  they  called  the  4  heart  of  the  place  or  of  the 
country '  and  which  received  great  honour.  The 
material  was  of  marvellous  value,  for  it  was  an  emerald 
of  the  size  of  a  thick  pepper  pod  (capsicum),  upon 
which  a  small  bird  was  engraved  with  the  greatest 
skill,  and,  with  the  same  skill,  a  small  serpent  coiled 
ready  to  strike.  The  stone  was  so  transparent  that 
it  shone  from  its  interior  with  the  brightness  of  a 
candle  flame.  It  was  a  very  old  jewel,  and  there  is 
no  tradition  extant  concerning  the  origin  of  its  venera- 
tion and  worship." 

The  first  missionary  of  Achiotlan,  Fray  Benito, 
afterward  visited  this  place  of  worship  and  succeeded 
in  persuading  the  Indians  to  surrender  the  idol  to 
him.  He  had  the  stone  ground  up,  although  a 
Spaniard  offered  three  thousand  ducats  for  it,  stirred 


the  powder  in  water,  and  poured  it  upon  the  earth 
and  trod  upon  it  in  order  at  the  same  time  to  destroy 
the  heathen  abomination  entirely  and  to  demonstrate 
in  the  sight  of  all  the  impotence  of  the  idol. 

Burgoa  says,  writing  of  an  oracle  in  the  Laguna  de 
San  Dionisio  near  Tehuantepec,  that  on  an  island 
there  "  was  a  deep  and  extensive  cave,  where  the 
Zapotecs  had  one  of  their  most  important  and  most 
revered  idols,  and  they  called  it  '  soul  and  heart  of 
the  kingdom  '  (Alma  y  Corazon  del  Reyno),  because 
these  barbarians  were  persuaded  that  this  fabulous 
deity  was  Atlas,  upon  whom  the  land  rested  and  who 
bore  it  on  his  shoulders,  and  when  he  moved  his 
shoulders  the  earth  was  shaken  with  unwonted 
tremblings  ;  and  from  his  favour  came  the  victories 
which  they  won  and  the  fruitful  years  which  yielded 
them  the  means  of  living." 

There  was  an  oracle  connected  also  with  this 
temple,  and  the  last  king  of  Tehuantepec,  Cocijo-Pij, 
is  said  to  have  received  here  from  the  god  the  informa- 
tion that  the  rule  of  the  Mexicans  was  at  an  end  and 
that  it  was  not  possible  to  withstand  the  Spaniards. 
When  the  baptized  king  was  later  seized  and  im- 
prisoned on  account  of  his  falling  back  into  idolatry 
the  vicar  of  Tehuantepec,  Fray  Bernardo  de  Santa 
Maria,  sought  out  the  island,  forced  his  way  into  the 
cave,  and  found  there  a  large  quadrangular  chamber, 
carefully  swept,  with  altar-like  structures  around  on 
the  sides,  and  on  them  many  incense  vessels,  rich  and 
costly  offerings  of  valuable  materials,  gorgeous 
feathers,  and  disks  and  necklaces  of  gold,  most  of 
them  sprinkled  with  freshly  drawn  blood. 

From  what  has  gone  before,  it  is  clear  that  our 
knowledge  of  Maya  magic  and  all  that  it  implies  is 
certainly  not  on  a  level  with  that  relating  to  Mexican 
occult  science.  This  is  owing  chiefly  to  the  paucity 
of  the  records  left  us  by  the  Spanish  priesthood,  and 


by  their  endeavours  to  stamp  out  the  memory  of  all 
native  culture  and  thought.  We  must  also  bear  in 
mind  that  Maya  origins  and  the  ancient  history  of 
the  country,  which  greatly  pre-dates  that  of  Mexico, 
have  not  as  yet  been  thoroughly  explored. 

Yet  a  general  conclusion  may  be  reached.  In  all 
likelihood  the  arcane  knowledge  of  the  Maya  resembled 
that  of  Mexico,  which  indeed  had  its  roots  in  Maya 
practice,  and  like  it  was  founded  on  an  alimentary 
basis.  The  food  supply  was  regarded  in  Guatemala 
and  Yucatan  as  the  direct  gift  of  the  gods,  maize, 
honey,  and  all  food  products  being  regarded  as  the 
donations  of  deities.  If  we  do  not  find  human  sacrifice 
among  the  Maya  so  rampant  as  in  Mexico  it  is  simply 
because  the  practice  in  the  more  southern  sphere 
remained,  as  in  early  Mexico,  on  a  lesser  scale  owing 
to  the  non-adoption  by  the  Maya  of  the  awful  con- 
clusion arrived  at  by  the  Aztecs  that  the  more  blood 
shed  the  more  rain  would  be  likely  to  descend. 

There  is  good  evidence,  too,  that  at  a  certain  period 
in  their  history  the  Maya,  in  some  instances  at  least, 
substituted  human  sacrifice  by  the  use  of  paste 
images  of  human  beings,  little  cakes  of  maize  paste 
made  in  the  shapes  of  distorted  dwarfs.  The  dwarf, 
we  know,  was  in  Mexico  an  especial  sacrifice  to  the 
rain-gods,  probably  because  he  was  thought  to 
resemble  the  Tlaloque,  or  small  gods  who  poured 
down  the  rain.  The  more  dwarfs  despatched  to  help 
them  in  this  task,  the  more  rain,  argued  the  Mexicans. 
This  substitution  seems  to  have  been  general  among 
the  Maya,  and  to  have  supplanted  human  sacrifice  to 
a  great  extent. 

But  the  gods  who  sent  the  people  food  must  them- 
selves be  kept  in  life,  and  for  this  purpose  the  Maya 
appear  to  have  employed  magical  formulse  rather 
than  sacrificial  means.  They  certainly  gave  blood 
drawn  from  the  tongue  and  thighs,  as  some  of  their 


wall-carvings  show,  and  this  substitution  of  the  part 
for  the  whole  exhibits  a  higher  degree  of  civilized 
thought  than  that  obtaining  in  Mexico.  But  this 
was  not  all.  Their  festivals,  from  what  we  know  of 
them,  seem  to  have  resembled  the  external  shows  of 
the  Egyptian  Mysteries  in  enacting  the  myths  of  the 
gods  of  growth,  and  thus  they  helped  by  sympathetic 
magic  to  induce  the  gods  themselves  to  enact  the 
drama  of  growth  with  benefit  to  humanity.  In  their 
religion  the  deities  of  fruitfulness  played  a  most 
important  part,  and  are  adorned  with  symbols  relat- 
ing to  agriculture.  Indeed,  it  would  seem  that  the 
elements  current  in  their  hieroglyphic  script  were 
borrowed  from  agricultural  implements. 

Maya  religion  may,  indeed,  be  summed  up  in  the 
expression  "  sun-worship."  In  an  illuminating  pas- 
sage Dr.  Haebler  writes  : 

"  The  varied  representations  of  the  gods  in  the 
monuments  and  in  manuscripts  were  certainly  to 
some  extent  only  different  forms  of  one  and  the 
same  divine  power.  The  missionaries  were  able  to 
describe  this  consciousness  of  an  underlying  unity  in 
the  case  of  the  god  Hunabku,  who  was  invisible  and 
supreme  ;  naturally  their  zealous  orthodoxy  saw  here 
some  fragmentary  knowledge  of  the  one  God. 

"  Hunabku  does  not  appear  very  prominently  in 
the  Maya  worship  or  mythology  ;  of  this  the  sun  is 
undoubtedly  the  central  point.  Kukulcan  and  Guku- 
matz — probably  in  his  essence  Itzamna  also — are 
only  variant  names,  originating  in  difference  of  race, 
for  the  power  of  the  sun  that  warms,  lights  and  pours 
blessings  upon  the  earth.  As  the  sun  rises  in  the  east 
out  of  the  sea,  so  the  corresponding  divinity  of  the 
traditions  comes  over  the  water  from  the  east  to  the 
Maya,  and  is  the  bringer  of  all  good  things,  of  all 
blessings  to  body  and  soul,  of  fruitfulness  and  learn- 
ing. In  the  last  character  the  divinity  is  fully 


incarnated.  He  appears  as  an  aged  greybeard  in  white 
flowing  robes ;  as  Votan  he  divides  the  land  among 
the  peoples  and  gives  the  settlements  their  names  ;  as 
Kabil,  the  Red  Hand,  he  discovers  writing,  teaches 
the  art  of  building,  and  arranges  the  marvellous  per- 
fection of  the  calendar.  This  part  of  the  myth  has 
undoubtedly  a  historical  connection  with  the  sun- 
myth,  the  real  centre  of  all  these  religious  conceptions, 
and  is  further  evidence  of  the  powers  of  the  priest- 
hood and  of  the  fact  that  their  influence  was  exercised 
to  advance  the  progress  of  civilization.  Fully 
realistic  is  a  conception  of  that  particular  deity  which 
is  represented  in  the  Maya  art  by  the  widely  prevail- 
ing symbol  of  the  feathered  snake.  This  is  also  a 
branch  of  the  sun-worship.  In  the  tropical  districts 
for  a  great  part  of  the  year  the  sun  each  day,  at 
noon,  draws  up  the  clouds  around  himself ;  hence, 
with  lightning  and  thunder,  the  symbols  of  power, 
comes  down  the  fruitful  rain  in  thunderstorms  upon 
the  thirsty  land.  Thus  the  feathered  snake,  perhaps 
even  a  symbol  of  the  thunder,  appears  among  the 
Maya,  on  the  highland  of  Central  America,  among 
the  Pueblo  Indians,  and  also  among  some  Indian 
races  of  the  North  American  lowland.  It  represents 
the  warm  fruitful  power  of  the  heavens,  which  is 
invariably  personified  in  the  chief  luminary,  the  sun. 
The  symbols  of  the  snake  and  of  Quetzal,  the  sacred 
bird  with  highly  coloured  plumage,  are  attributes  of 
more  than  one  Maya  divinity. 

"  Under  different  shapes  in  the  Tzendal  district,  in 
Yucatan  to  a  large  extent,  and  particularly  in  Chichen- 
Itza,  they  have  so  coloured  the  religious  and  the 
artistic  conceptions  of  the  Maya  that  we  meet  with 
traces  of  this  symbolism  in  almost  every  monument 
and  every  decoration.  The  dualism  of  the  Maya 
Olympus  also  originates  in  a  mythological  interpre- 
tation of  natural  phenomena.  The  representatives 


of  the  sun — light  and  life — are  opposed  to  those  of 
the  night — darkness  and  death  ;  both  have  nearly 
equal  powers  and  are  in  continual  conflict  for  the 
lordship  of  the  earth  and  of  mankind.  Moreover,  the 
good  gods  have  been  obliged  to  abandon  man  after 
expending  all  their  benefits  upon  him,  and  have  made 
him  promise  of  a  future  return,  to  support  him  in  the 
struggle,  and  to  assure  him  of  victory  at  the  last. 
Around  these  central  mythological  conceptions,  which 
in  different  forms  are  practically  common  property 
among  most  early  peoples,  are  grouped  in  the  case 
of  the  Maya,  a  large  number  of  individual  charac- 
teristics, each  diversely  developed.  Not  only  was 
human  life  subject  to  the  power  of  the  gods  in  a  large 
and  general  way,  since  the  gods  had  created  and 
formed  it,  but  also  religion — or,  to  be  more  exact, 
the  Maya  priesthood — had  contrived  a  special  system 
whereby  a  man's  life  was  ostensibly  under  the  per- 
manent influence  of  the  gods,  even  in  the  most 
unimportant  trifles.  Upon  this  subject  the  quarters 
of  the  heavens  and  the  constellations  were  of  decisive 
importance  ;  careful  and  keen  observation,  lasting 
apparently  over  a  great  period  of  time,  had  put  the 
Maya  priesthood  in  possession  of  an  astronomical 
knowledge  to  which  no  other  people  upon  a  corre- 
sponding plane  of  civilization  has  ever  attained. 

"  This  is,  of  course,  reflected  in  the  Solar  Calendar 
and  the  Maya  tonalamatl.  The  solar  year  was  con- 
sidered in  relation  to  all  other  annual  calculations, 
and  on  it  the  priestly  caste  established  a  code  of 
astronomical  laws.  The  ritual  year  of  twenty  weeks, 
each  of  thirteen  days,  was  of  equal  importance1.  Here 
the  four  quarters  of  the  heavens  played  an  important 
part,  since  to  each  of  them  a  quarter  of  the  ritual 
year  belonged.  But  in  all  this  diversity  the  con- 
sciousness of  a  higher  unity  clearly  existed  ;  evidence 
for  this  is  the  special  symbol  of  the  four  quarters  of 


the  heavens — the  cross — which  the  Spaniards  were 
highly  astonished  to  find  everywhere  in  the  Maya 
temples  as  an  object  of  particular  veneration.  More- 
over, an  influence  upon  the  motions  of  the  earth  was 
certainly  attributed  to  the  morning  and  evening  stars 
and  to  the  Pleiades.  Perhaps  also  the  periods  of 
revolution  for  Venus,  Mercury,  and  Mars  were 
approximately  known  and  employed  in  calculation. 

"  The  knowledge  of  these  minute  astronomical 
calculations  was  the  exclusive  possession  of  the 
highest  priesthood,  though  at  the  same  time  they 
exercised  a  certain  influence  upon  the  whole  national 
life.  Upon  these  calculations  the  priests  arranged  the 
worship  of  the  gods." 

The  principal  Maya  manuscripts  which  have  escaped 
the  ravages  of  time  are  the  Codices  in  the  libraries  of 
Dresden,  Paris,  and  Madrid.  These  are  known  as  the 
"  Codex  Perezianus,"  preserved  in  the  Bibliotheque 
Nationale  at  Paris,  the  "  Dresden  Codex,"  long 
regarded  as  an  Aztec  manuscript,  and  the  "  Troano 
Codex,"  so  called  from  one  of  its  owners,  Senor 
Tro  y  Ortolano,  found  at  Madrid  in  1865.  These 
manuscripts  deal  principally  with  Maya  mythology, 
but  as  they  cannot  be  deciphered  with  any  degree  of 
accuracy,  they  do  not  greatly  assist  our  knowledge 
of  the  subject. 

As  has  been  said,  these  manuscripts  have  mostly  an 
astrological  significance,  but  little  if  anything  can  be 
gleaned  from  them  which  might  be  described  as  of 
the  nature  of  magic  proper. 

"  Those  who  would  follow  Forstemann's  (and  my 
own)  views  in  understanding  the  codices,"  says  Dr. 
Brinton,  "  must  accustom  themselves  to  look  upon 
the  animals,  plants,  objects,  and  transactions  they 
depict  as  largely  symbolical,  representing  the  move- 
ments of  the  celestial  bodies,  the  changes  of  the 
seasons,  the  meteorological  variations,  the  revolutions 


of  the  sun,  moon,  and  planets,  and  the  like  ;  just  as 
in  the  ancient  zodiacs  of  the  Old  World  we  find  similar 
uncouth  animals  and  impossible  collocations  of  images 
presented.  The  great  snakes  which  stretch  across  the 
pages  of  the  codices  mean  time  ;  the  torches  in  the 
hands  of  figures,  often  one  downward  and  one  upward, 
indicate  the  rising  and  the  setting  of  constellations  ; 
the  tortoise  and  the  snail  mark  the  solstices  ;  the 
mummied  bodies,  the  disappearance  from  the  sky  at 
certain  seasons  of  certain  stars,  etc.  A  higher,  a  more 
pregnant,  and,  I  believe,  the  only  correct  meaning  is 
thus  awarded  to  these  strange  memorials." 


THE  Maya  manuscripts  themselves  afford  us 
little  light  in  the  philosophy  or  practice  of 
the  arcane  sciences,  except  as  regards  as- 
trology and  the  tonalamatl.  It  is  rather  from  those 
books  written  by  Christianized  natives  that  we  glean 
such  knowledge  as  we  possess  of  the  spirit  of  Maya 
sorcery.  Unhappily  these  books,  although  published 
and  translated  into  English  in  some  cases,  are  now 
scarce  and  difficult  to  come  by.  The  writer  published 
in  1908  a  small  popular  pamphlet  dealing  with  the 
most  important,  "  The  Popol  Vuh,"  and  since  that 
date  several  good  English  translations  of  this  have 
appeared.  The  Abbe  Brasseur  de  Bourbourg  had 
many  years  before  translated  it  into  French,  and 
Daniel  Garrison  Brinton  had  in  a  similar  manner 
dealt  with  the  Book  of  the  Cakchiquels  and  the 
Books  of  Chilan  Balam.  But  Americanists  as  well  as 
students  of  arcane  knowledge  still  await  the  publica- 
tion of  a  full-dress  work  dealing  with  these  intensely 
interesting  manifestations  of  the  Indian  mind. 

None  of  the  scanty  native  records  of  America  which 
pre-date  the  discovery  holds  for  us  an  importance  so 
great,  both  from  the  mythological  and  historical 
viewpoints,  as  does  the  mysterious  "  Popol  Vuh," 
the  long-lost  and  curiously  recovered  sacred  book  of 
the  civilized  Maya-Quiche  people  of  Guatemaa. 
The  Book  of  the  Cakchiquels  and  the  Books  of  Chilan 



Balam  are  both  of  moment  and  great  interest  because 
of  the  historical  data  with  which  they  provide  the 
student  of  the  Central  American  past.  But  neither 
contains  a  tithe  of  the  rich  mythological  information 
treasured  up  in  the  "  Popol  Vuh."  The  pity  is  that 
its  mythology  has  not  a  very  direct  bearing  upon 
that  of  the  Maya  proper  as  we  know  it  from  the  manu- 
script paintings  and  sculpture  of  the  Maya  people  of 
Yucatan,  probably  because  it  was  written  at  a  different 
period  from  the  Maya  heyday.  In  all  likelihood  it  is 
more  venerable,  but  precise  criteria  are  lacking.  But 
it  is  certainly  supplementary  to  Maya  belief,  it  casts 
a  flood  of  light  on  the  nature  and  actions  of  several 
gods  of  the  Maya  and  Mexicans,  sometimes  under 
different  or  slightly  altered  names,  and,  above  all,  it 
gives  us  by  far  the  clearest  picture  of  Central  American 
cosmogony  and  theology  which  we  possess.  Whether 
it  has  been  tampered  with,  sophisticated  by  late 
copyists,  is  a  problem  almost  as  difficult  of  solution 
as  that  of  the  alteration  of  the  New  Testament,  but 
such  indications  of  this  as  seem  to  exist  can  scarcely 
be  dealt  with  faithfully  in  view  of  our  slight  knowledge 
of  the  whole  question. 

The  text  we  possess,  the  recovery  of  which  forms  one 
of  the  most  romantic  episodes  in  the  history  of 
American  bibliography,  was  written  by  a  Christian- 
ized native  of  Guatemala  some  time  in  the  seventeenth 
century,  and  was  copied  in  the  Quiche  language, 
in  which  it  was  originally  written,  by  a  monk  of  the 
Order  of  Predicadores,  one  Francisco  Ximenes,  who 
also  added  a  Spanish  translation.  The  Abbe  Brasseur 
de  Bourbourg,  a  profound  student  of  American  archae- 
ology and  languages  (whose  interpretations  of  the 
Mexican  myths  are  as  worthless  as  the  priceless 
materials  he  unearthed  are  valuable),  deplored  in  a 
letter  to  the  Due  de  Valmy,  the  supposed  loss  of  the 
"  Popol  Vuh,"  which  he  was  aware  had  been  made  use 


of  early  in  the  nineteenth  century  by  a  certain  Don 
Felix  Cabrera.  Dr.  C.  Scherzer,  an  Austrian  scholar, 
thus  made  aware  of  its  value,  paid  a  visit  to  the 
Republic  of  Guatemala  in  1854  or  1855,  and  was 
successful  in  tracing  the  missing  manuscript  in  the 
library  of  the  University  of  San  Carlos  in  the  city  of 
Guatemala.  It  was  afterwards  ascertained  that  its 
translator,  Ximenes,  had  deposited  it  in  the  library 
of  his  convent  at  Chichicastenango,  whence  it  passed 
o  the  San  Carlos  library  in  1830. 

Scherzer  at  once  made  a  copy  of  the  Spanish 
translation  of  the  manuscript,  which  he  published  at 
Vienna  in  1856  under  the  title  of  "  Las  Historias  del 
origen  de  los  Indios  de  Guatemala,  par  el  R.  P.  F. 
Francisco  Ximenes."  The  Abbe  Brasseur  also  took 
a  copy  of  the  original,  which  he  published  at  Paris  in 
1861,  with  the  title,  "  Vuh  Popol :  Le  Livre  Sacre  de 
Quiches,  et  les  Mythes  de  PAntiquite  Americaine." 
In  this  work  the  Quiche  original  and  the  Abbe's 
French  translation  are  set  forth  side  by  side.  Un- 
fortunately the  Spanish  and  the  French  translations 
leave  much  to  be  desired  so  far  as  their  accuracy  is 
concerned,  and  they  are  rendered  of  little  use  by  reason 
of  the  misleading  notes  which  accompany  them. 
The  late  Dr.  Edward  Seler  of  Berlin  was,  prior  to  his 
death,  engaged  on  a  translation  from  the  Quiche,  but 
it  appears  to  have  been  left  unpublished. 

The  name  "  Popol  Vuh  "  signifies  "  Record  of  the 
Community,"  and  its  literal  translation  is  "  Book  of 
the  Mat,"  from  the  Quiche  words  "  pop  "  or  "  popol," 
a  mat  or  rug  of  woven  rushes  or  bark  on  which  the 
entire  family  sat,  and  "  vuh  "  or  "  uuh,"  paper  or 
book,  from  "  uoch,"  to  write.  The  "  Popol  Vuh  "  is 
an  example  of  a  world- wide  type  of  annals  of  which 
the  first  portion  is  pure  mythology,  which  gradually 
shades  off  into  pure  history,  evolving  from  the  hero- 
myths  of  saga  to  the  recital  of  the  deeds  of  authentic 


personages.  It  may,  in  fact,  be  classed  with  the 
Heimskringla  of  Snorre,  the  Danish  History  of  Saxo- 
Grammaticus,  the  Chinese  History  in  the  "  Five 
Books,"  and  the  Japanese  "  Nihongi." 

The  language  in  which  the  "  Popol  Vuh  "  was  writ- 
ten was,  as  has  been  said,  the  Quiche,  a  dialect  of 
the  great  Maya-Quiche  tongue  spoken  at  the  time  of 
the  Conquest  from  the  borders  of  Mexico  on  the  north 
to  those  of  the  present  State  of  Nicaragua  on  the 
south.  But  whereas  the  Maya  was  spoken  in  Yucatan 
proper,  and  the  State  of  Chiapas,  the  Quiche  was  the 
tongue  of  the  peoples  of  that  part  of  Central  America 
now  occupied  by  the  States  of  Guatemala,  Honduras, 
and  San  Salvador,  where  it  is  still  used  by  the  natives. 
It  is  totally  different  from  the  Nahuatl,  the  language 
of  the  peoples  of  Mexico,  both  as  regards  its 
origin  and  structure,  and  its  affinities  with  other 
American  tongues  are  even  less  distinct  than  those 
between  the  Slavonic  and  Teutonic  groups.  Of  this 
tongue  the  "  Popol  Vuh "  is  practically  the  only 
monument ;  at  all  events  the  only  work  by  a  native 
of  the  district  in  which  it  was  used. 

At  the  period  of  their  discovery,  subsequent  to  the 
conquest  of  Mexico,  the  Quiche  people  of  Guatemala 
had  lost  much  of  that  culture  which  was  characteristic 
of  the  Maya  race,  the  builders  of  the  great  stone 
cities  of  Guatemala  and  Yucatan.  They  were  broken 
up  into  petty  states  and  confederacies  not  unlike  those 
of  Biblical  Palestine,  yet  seem  to  have  retained  the 
art  of  writing  in  hieroglyphs.  Whether  or  not  the 
"  Popol  Vuh  "  was  first  written  in  their  own  script 
it  is  impossible  to  say,  but  the  probability  is  that  the 
record  of  it  was  kept  mnemonically,  or  memorized  by 
the  priestly  class,  one  of  whose  number  reduced  it  to 
writing  in  European  characters  at  a  later  date.  In- 
deed, it  seems  unlikely  that  it  was  written  down  at 
all  until  penned  in  the  sixteenth  century  by  the 


Christianized  native  whose  manuscript  was  found 
by  Scherzer,  and  who,  knowing  most  of  it  by  rote,  was 
doubtless  inspired  to  preserve  it  much  as  Ixtlilxochit 
in  Mexico  set  down  the  history  and  traditions  of  his 
race  from  patriotic  motives. 

The  "  Popol  Vuh  "  is  divided  into  four  books,  the 
first  three  of  which  are  almost  entirely  mythological 
in  their  significance.  The  first  book  opens  with  an 
account  of  the  Creation.  At  the  beginning  was  only 
the  Creator  and  Former,  and  those  whom  he  engen- 
dered were  Hun-Ahpu-Vuch,  the  hunter  with  the 
blowpipe ;  Hun-Ahpu-Utiu,  the  blow-pipe  hunter, 
the  coyote  ;  Zaki-nima-Tzyiz,  the  white  hunter,  and 
the  Lord,  the  serpent  covered  with  feathers,  the 
heart  of  the  lakes  of  the  sea.  There  were  also  the 
father  and  mother  gods,  Xpiyacac  and  Xmucane. 
Concerning  the  first  three  we  can  only  infer  that  they 
were  among  the  numerous  hunting-gods  of  the  Maya- 
Quiche,  who  resembled  the  Maya  archer-god  Ahulane, 
whose  shrine  was  situated  on  the  island  of  Cozumel 
off  the  coast  of  Yucatan.  "  The  serpent  covered  with 
feathers  "  is  obviously  Kukulkan  or  Quetzalcoatl, 
the  Feathered  Serpent  of  Yucatec  and  Mexican  myth- 
ology, while  the  parental  deities  seem  to  be  the  same 
with  the  Mexican  Cipactonal  and  Oxomoco,  who  may 
be  described  as  the  Adam  and  Eve  of  the  human 
race,  its  first  semi-divine  progenitors. 

Over  the  earth  brooded  the  Creator  and  Former, 
the  Mother,  the  Father,  and  the  life-giver  of  all  who 
breathe  and  have  existence  both  in  heaven,  earth,  or 
in  the  waters.  All  was  silent,  tranquil  and  without 
motion  beneath  the  immensity  of  the  heavens.  All 
was  without  form  and  void.  Here  the  Creator  seems 
to  be  identified  with  the  Feathered  Serpent,  and  a 
little  further  on  he  takes  plural  form,  like  the  Elohim, 
of  Genesis.  He  is  now  "  these  covered  with  green 
and  blue,  who  have  the  name  of  Gucumatz."  Gucu- 


matz  is  merely  the  Quiche  name  of  Kukulkan  or 
Quetzalcoatl,  but  whether  he  was  actually  one  and  the 
same  with  the  Creator  we  are  left  in  doubt,  as  we  are 
now  told  that  he  held  converse  with  "  the  Dominator." 
The  passage  is  confusing,  and  we  are  left  with  the 
impression  that  there  were  at  least  two  deities  of  the 
Gucumatz  type.  They  took  counsel,  and  the  dawn 
appeared.  Trees  and  herbs  sprouted.  Then  arose 
the  Heart  of  the  Heavens,  Hurakan,  the  wind-god, 
from  whom  the  hurricane  takes  its  name,  who  is 
known  to  be  the  same  as  the  Mexican  Tezcatlipoca, 
the  god  of  wind  and  fate. 

Animals  now  appeared  and  birds  great  and  small. 
But  as  yet  man  was  not.  To  supply  the  deficiency 
the  divine  beings  resolved  to  create  manikins  carved 
out  of  wood.  But  these  soon  incurred  the  displeasure 
of  the  gods,  who,  irritated  by  their  lack  of  reverence, 
resolved  to  destroy  them.  Then  by  the  will  of  Hura- 
kan, the  Heart  of  Heaven,  the  waters  were  swollen, 
and  a  great  flood  came  upon  the  manikins  of  wood. 
They  were  drowned  and  a  thick  resin  fell  from 
heaven.  The  bird  Xecotcovach  tore  out  their  eyes  ; 
the  bird  Camulatz  cut  off  their  heads  ;  the  bird 
Cotzbalam  devoured  their  flesh  ;  the  bird  Tecum- 
balam  broke  their  bones  and  sinews  and  ground  them 
into  powder.  Because  they  had  not  thought  on  Hura- 
kan, therefore  the  face  of  the  earth  grew  dark,  and 
a  pouring  rain  commenced,  raining  by  day  and  by 
night.  Then  all  sorts  of  beings,  great  and  small, 
gathered  together  to  abuse  the  men  to  their  faces. 
The  very  household  utensils  and  animals  jeered  at 
them,  their  mill-stones,  their  plates,  their  cups,  their 
dogs,  their  hens.  Said  the  dogs  and  hens,  "  Very 
badly  have  you  treated  us,  and  you  have  bitten  us. 
Now  we  bite  you  in  turn."  Said  the  mill-stones, 
'  Very  much  were  we  tormented  by  you,  and  daily, 
daily,  night  and  day,  it  was  squeak,  screech,  screech, 


for  your  sake.  Now  you  shall  feel  our  strength,  and 
we  will  grind  your  flesh  and  make  meal  of  your  bodies." 
And  the  dogs  upbraided  the  manikins  because  they 
had  not  been  fed,  and  tore  the  unhappy  images  with 
their  teeth.  And  the  cups  and  dishes  said,  "  Pain  and 
misery  you  gave  us,  smoking  our  tops  and  sides, 
cooking  us  over  the  fire,  burning  and  hurting  us  as  if 
we  had  no  feeling.  Now  it  is  your  turn,  and  you  shall 
burn."  Then  ran  the  manikins  hither  and  thither 
in  despair.  They  climbed  to  the  roofs  of  the  houses, 
but  the  houses  crumbled  under  their  feet ;  they 
tried  to  mount  to  the  tops  of  the  trees,  but  the  trees 
hurled  them  from  them ;  they  sought  refuge  in  the 
caverns,  but  the  caverns  closed  before  them.  Thus 
was  accomplished  the  ruin  of  this  race,  destined  to  be 
overthrown.  And  it  is  said  that  their  posterity  are 
the  little  monkeys  who  live  in  the  woods. 

There  was  now  left  on  the  earth  only  the  race  of 
giants,  whose  king  and  progenitor  was  Vukub-Cakix, 
a  being  full  of  pride.  The  name  signifies  "  Seven- 
times-the-colour-of-fire,"  and  seems  to  have  had 
allusion  to  the  emerald  teeth  and  silver  eyes,  or  golden 
and  silver  body  of  the  monster.  Vukub-Cakix  boasted 
that  his  brilliance  rendered  the  presence  of  the  sun 
and  the  moon  superfluous,  and  this  egotism  so  dis- 
gusted the  gods  that  they  resolved  upon  his  destruc- 
tion. He  seems  indeed  to  have  been,  like  the  Baby- 
lonian, Tiawath,  the  personification  of  earth  or  chaos, 
or  the  material  as  opposed  to  the  spiritual,  and,  as 
the  gods  of  the  Babylonians  sent  Bel  to  destroy  her, 
the  creators  of  the  Quiches  decided  to  send  emissaries 
to  earth  to  slay  the  unruly  titan.  So  the  twin  hero- 
gods,  Hun-Ahpu  and  Xbalanque,  were  despatched 
to  the  terrestrial  sphere  to  chasten  his  arrogance. 
They  shot  at  him  with  their  blow-pipes  and  wounded 
him  in  the  mouth,  although  he  succeeded  in  wrench- 
ing off  Hun-Ahpu's  arm. 


He  then  proceeded  to  his  dwelling,  where  he  was 
met  and  anxiously  interrogated  by  his  spouse  Chimal- 
mat.  Tortured  by  the  pain  in  his  teeth  and  jaw,  he, 
in  an  access  of  spite,  hung  Hun-Ahpu's  arm  over  a 
blazing  fire,  and  then  threw  himself  down  to 
bemoan  his  injuries,  consoling  himself,  however,  with 
the  idea  that  he  had  adequately  avenged  himself 
upon  the  interlopers  who  had  dared  to  disturb  his 

But  Hun-Ahpu  and  Xbalanque  were  in  no  mind  that 
he  should  escape  so  easily,  and  the  recovery  of  Hun- 
Ahpu's  arm  must  be  made  at  all  hazards.  With  this 
end  in  view  they  consulted  two  venerable  beings  in 
whom  we  readily  recognize  the  father-mother  divini- 
ties, Xpiyacoc  and  Xmucane,  disguised  for  the  nonce 
as  sorcerers.  These  personages  accompanied  Hun- 
Ahpu  and  Xbalanque  to  the  abode  of  Vukub-Cakix, 
whom  they  found  in  a  state  of  intense  agony.  They 
persuaded  him  to  be  operated  upon  in  order  to 
relieve  his  sufferings,  and  for  his  glittering  teeth 
they  substituted  grains  of  maize.  Next  they  re- 
moved his  eyes  of  emerald,  upon  which  his  death 
speedily  followed,  as  did  that  of  his  wife  Chimalmat. 
Hun-Ahpu's  arm  was  recovered,  re-affixed  to  his 
shoulder,  and  all  ended  satisfactorily  for  the  hero- 

The  sons  of  the  giant  had  yet  to  be  accounted  for, 
however.  These  were  Zipacna,  the  earth-heaper, 
and  Cabrakan,  the  earthquake.  Four  hundred  youths 
(the  stars)  beguiled  Zipacna  into  carrying  immense 
tree-trunks  wherewith  to  build  a  house,  and  when 
he  entered  the  foundation-ditch  of  the  structure  they 
overwhelmed  him  with  timber.  They  built  the 
house  over  his  body,  but  rising  in  his  giant  might  he 
shattered  it,  and  slew  them  all.  But,  his  strength 
weakened  by  a  poisoned  crab,  the  divine  brothers 
succeeded  in  despatching  him  by  casting  a  mountain 


upon  him.  In  a  similar  manner  they  accounted  for 

The  Second  Book  takes  for  its  first  theme  the  birth 
and  parentage  of  Hun-Ahpu  and  Xbalanque,  and  the 
scribe  intimates  that  a  mysterious  veil  enshrouds 
their  origin.  Their  respective  fathers  were  Hunhun- 
Ahpu,  the  hunter  with  the  blow-pipe,  and  Vukub- 
Hunahpu,  sons  of  Xpiyacoc  and  Xmucane.  Hunhun- 
Ahpu  had  by  a  wife  Xbakiyalo,  two  sons,  Hunbatz 
and  Hunchouen,  men  full  of  wisdom  and  artistic 
genius.  All  of  them  were  addicted  to  the  recreation 
of  dicing  and  playing  at  ball,  and  a  spectator  of  their 
pastimes  was  Voc,  the  messenger  of  Hurakan.  Xbaki- 
yalo having  died,  Hunhun-Ahpu  and  Vukub-Hunah- 
pu,  leaving  the  former's  sons  behind,  played  a  game  of 
ball,  which  in  its  progress  took  them  into  the  vicinity 
of  the  realm  of  Xibalba  (the  Underworld).  This 
reached  the  ears  of  the  monarchs  of  that  place,  Hun- 
Came  and  Vukub-Came,  who,  after  consulting  their 
counsellors,  challenged  the  strangers  to  a  game  of  ball, 
with  the  object  of  defeating  and  disgracing  them. 

For  this  purpose  they  despatched  four  messengers 
in  the  shape  of  owls.  The  brothers  accepted  the 
challenge,  after  a  touching  farewell  with  their  mother 
Xmucane,  and  their  sons  and  nephews,  and  followed 
the  feathered  heralds  down  the  steep  incline  to 
Xibalba  from  the  playground  at  Ninxor  Carchah. 
After  an  ominous  crossing  over  a  river  of  blood  they 
came  to  the  residence  of  the  kings  of  Xibalba,  where 
they  underwent  the  mortification  of  mistaking  two 
wooden  figures  for  the  monarchs.  Invited  to  sit 
on  the  seat  of  honour,  they  discovered  it  to  be  a  red- 
hot  stone,  and  the  contortions  which  resulted  from 
their  successful  trick  caused  unbounded  merriment 
among  the  Xibalbans.  Then  they  were  thrust  into 
the  House  of  Gloom,  where  they  were  sacrificed  and 
buried.  The  head  of  Hunhun-Ahpu  was,  however, 


suspended  from  a  tree,  which  speedily  became  covered 
with  gourds,  from  which  it  was  almost  impossible  to 
distinguish  the  bloody  trophy.  All  in  Xibalba  were 
forbidden  the  fruit  of  that  tree. 

But  one  person  in  Xibalba  had  resolved  to  disobey 
the  mandate.  This  was  the  virgin  princess  Xquiq 
(Blood),  the  daughter  of  Cuchumaquiq,  who  went  un- 
attended to  the  spot.  Standing  under  the  branches 
gazing  at  the  fruit,  the  maiden  stretched  out  her 
hand,  and  the  head  of  Hunhun-Ahpu  spat  into  the 
palm.  The  spittle  caused  her  to  conceive,  and  she 
returned  home,  being  assured  by  the  head  of  the  hero- 
god  that  no  harm  should  result  to  her.  This  thing 
was  done  by  order  of  Hurakan,  the  Heart  of  Heaven. 
In  six  months'  time  her  father  became  aware  of  her 
condition,  and  despite  her  protestations  the  royal 
messengers  of  Xibalba,  the  owls,  received  orders  to 
kill  her  and  return  with  her  heart  in  a  vase.  She, 
however,  escaped  by  bribing  the  owls  with  splendid 
promises  for  the  future  to  spare  her  and  substitute 
for  her  heart  the  coagulated  sap  of  the  blood- wart. 

In  her  extremity  Xquiq  went  for  protection  to  the 
home  of  Xmucane,  who  now  looked  after  the  young 
Hunbatz  and  Hunchouen.  Xmucane  would  not  at 
first  believe  her  tale.  But  Xquiq  appealed  to  the  gods, 
and  performed  a  miracle  by  gathering  a  basket  of 
maize  where  no  maize  grew,  and  thus  gained  her 

Shortly  afterwards  Xquiq  became  the  mother  of 
twin  boys,  the  heroes  of  the  First  Book,  Hun-Ahpu, 
and  Xbalanque.  These  did  not  find  favour  in  the 
eyes  of  Xmucane,  their  grandmother,  who  chased 
them  out  of  doors.  They  became  hunters,  but  were 
ill-treated  by  their  uncles  Hunbatz  and  Hunchouen, 
whom  they  transformed  into  apes.  They  cleared  a 
maize  plantation  by  the  aid  of  magical  tools  and 
otherwise  distinguished  themselves  thaumaturgically. 


But  the  rulers  of  the  Underworld  heard  them  at  play 
and  resolved  to  treat  them  as  they  had  done  their 
father  and  uncle.  Full  of  confidence,  however,  the 
young  men  accepted  the  challenge  of  the  Xibalbans 
to  a  game  of  ball.  But  they  sent  an  animal  called 
Xan  as  avant-courier  with  orders  to  prick  all  the 
Xibalbans  with  a  hair  from  Hun-Ahpu's  leg,  thus 
discovering  those  of  the  dwellers  in  the  Underworld 
who  were  made  of  wood — those  whom  their  fathers 
had  unwittingly  bowed  to  as  men — and  also  learning 
the  names  of  the  others  by  their  inquiries  and  explan- 
ations when  pricked.  Thus  they  did  not  salute  the 
manikins  on  their  arrival  at  the  Xibalban  court,  nor 
did  they  sit  upon  the  red-hot  stone.  They  even  passed 
scatheless  through  the  first  ordeal  of  the  "  House  of 
Gloom."  The  Xibalbans  were  furious,  and  their  wrath 
was  by  no  means  allayed  when  they  found  themselves 
beaten  at  the  game  of  ball  to  which  they  had  chal- 
lenged the  brothers.  Then  Hun-Came  and  Vukub- 
Came  ordered  the  twins  to  bring  them  four  bouquets 
of  flowers,  asking  the  guards  of  the  royal  gardens  to 
watch  most  carefully,  and  committed  Hun-Ahpu  and 
Xbalanque  to  the  "  House  of  Lances  " — the  second 
ordeal — where  the  lancers  were  directed  to  kill  them. 
The  brothers,  however,  had  at  their  beck  and  call  a 
swarm  of  ants,  which  entered  the  royal  gardens  on 
the  first  errand,  and  they  succeeded  in  bribing  the 
lancers.  The  Xibalbans,  white  with  fury,  ordered 
that  the  owls,  the  guardians  of  the  gardens,  should 
have  their  beaks  split,  and  otherwise  showed  their 
anger  at  their  third  defeat. 

Then  came  the  third  ordeal  in  the  "  House  of 
Tigers  "  and  the  "  House  of  Fire  "  without  injury. 
But  at  the  sixth  ordeal  misfortune  overtook  them  in 
the  "  House  of  Bats,"  Hun-Ahpu's  head  being  cut 
off  by  Camazotz,  "  Ruler  of  Bats."  The  head  was, 
however,  replaced  by  a  tortoise  which  chanced  to 


crawl  past  at  that  moment  and  Hun-Ahpu  was 
restored  to  life.  Later  the  brothers  performed  other 
marvels,  and,  having  conquered  the  Princes  of 
Xibalba,  proceeded  to  punish  them,  forbidding  them 
the  game  of  ball  and  reducing  their  lordship  to 
government  over  the  beasts  of  the  forest  only.  The 
passage  probably  refers  to  a  myth  of  the  harrying 
of  Hades,  and  the  defeat  of  a  group  of  older  deities 
by  a  new  and  younger  pantheon,  similar  to  the  replace- 
ment of  Saturn  by  Jupiter,  the  elder  gods  becoming 
"  demons." 

With  the  object  of  proving  their  immortal  nature 
to  their  adversaries,  Hun-Ahpu  and  Xbalanque,  first 
arranging  for  their  resurrection  with  two  sorcerers, 
Xulu  and  Pacaw,  stretched  themselves  upon  a  bier 
and  died.  Their  bones  were  ground  to  powder  and 
thrown  into  the  river.  They  then  went  through  a 
kind  of  evolutionary  process,  appearing  on  the  fifth 
day  after  their  deaths  as  men-fishes  and  on  the  sixth 
as  old  men,  ragged  and  tatterdemalion  in  appearance, 
killing  and  restoring  each  other  to  life.  At  the  request 
of  the  princes  of  Xibalba  they  burned  the  royal 
palace  and  restored  it  to  its  pristine  splendour,  killed 
and  resuscitated  the  king's  dog,  and  cut  a  man  in 
pieces,  bringing  him  to  life  again.  The  Lords  of  Hell 
were  curious  about  the  sensation  of  death,  and  asked 
to  be  killed  and  resuscitated.  The  first  portion  of 
their  request  the  hero-brothers  speedily  granted,  but 
did  not  deem  it  necessary  to  pay  any  regard  to  the 

Throwing  off  all  disguise,  the  brothers  assembled 
the  now  thoroughly  cowed  princes  of  Xibalba  and 
announced  their  intention  of  punishing  them  for  their 
animosity  against  themselves,  their  father,  and  uncle. 
They  were  forbidden  to  partake  in  the  noble  and 
classic  game  of  ball — a  great  indignity  in  the  eyes  of 
Maya  of  the  higher  caste — they  were  condemned  to 


menial  tasks,  and  they  were  to  have  sway  over  the 
beasts  of  the  forest  alone.  After  this  their  power 
rapidly  waned.  These  princes  of  the  Underworld  are 
described  as  being  owl-like,  with  faces  painted  black 
and  white,  as  symbolical  of  their  duplicity  and 
faithless  disposition. 

As  some  reward  for  the  dreadful  indignities  they 
had  undergone,  the  souls  of  Hunhun-Ahpu  and 
Vukub-Hunahpu,  the  first  adventurers  into  the  dark- 
some region  of  Xibalba,  were  translated  to  the  skies, 
and  became  the  sun  and  moon,  and  with  this 
apotheosis  the  Second  Book  ends. 

The  Third  Book  opens  with  another  council  of  the 
gods.  Once  more  they  decide  to  create  men.  The 
Creator  and  Former  made  four  perfect  men.  These 
beings  were  wholly  created  from  yellow  and  white 
maize.  Their  names  were  Balam-Quitze  (Tiger  with 
the  Sweet  Smile),  Balam-Agab  (Tiger  of  the  Night), 
Mahucutah  (The  Distinguished  Name),  and  Iqi- 
Balam  (Tiger  of  the  Moon).  They  had  neither  father 
nor  mother,  neither  were  they  made  by  the  ordinary 
agents  in  the  work  of  creation.  Their  creation  was 
a  miracle  of  the  Former. 

But  Hurakan  was  not  altogether  satisfied  with  his 
handiwork.  These  men  were  too  perfect.  They  knew 
overmuch.  Therefore  the  gods  took  counsel  as  to 
how  to  proceed  with  men.  They  must  not  become 
as  gods.  "  Let  us  so  contract  their  sight  so  that  they 
may  only  be  able  to  see  a  portion  of  the  earth  and  be 
content,"  said  the  gods.  Then  Hurakan  breathed  a 
cloud  over  their  eyes  which  became  partially  veiled. 
The  four  men  slept,  and  four  women  were  made, 
Cahu-Paluma  (Falling  Water),  Choimha  (Beautiful 
Water),  Tzununiha  (House  of  the  Water),  and  Cakixa 
(Water  of  Aras  or  Parrots),  who  became  the  wives  of 
the  men  in  their  respective  order  as  mentioned  above. 

These  were  the  ancestors  of  the  Quiches  only. 


Then  were  created  the  ancestors  of  other  peoples. 
They  were  ignorant  of  the  methods  of  worship,  and 
lifting  their  eyes  to  heaven  prayed  to  the  Creator,  the 
Former,  for  peaceable  lives  and  the  return  of  the  sun. 
But  no  sun  came,  and  they  grew  uneasy.  So  they 
set  out  for  Tulan-Zuiva,  or  the  Seven  Caves,  and 
there  gods  were  given  unto  them,  each  man,  as  head 
of  a  group  of  the  race,  a  god.  Balam-Quitze  received 
the  god  Tohil.  Balam-Agab  received  the  god  Avilix, 
and  Mahucutah  the  god  Hacavitz.  Iqi-Balam  received 
the  god  Nicahtagah. 

The  Quiches  now  began  to  feel  the  want  of  fire,  and 
the  god  Tohil,  the  creator  of  fire,  supplied  them  with 
this  element.  But  soon  afterwards  a  mighty  rain 
extinguished  all  the  fires  in  the  land.  Tohil,  however, 
always  renewed  the  supply.  And  fire  in  those  days 
was  the  chief  necessity,  for  as  yet  there  was  no  sun. 

Tulan  was  a  place  of  misfortune  to  man,  for  not 
only  did  he  suffer  from  cold  and  famine,  but  here  his 
speech  was  so  confounded  that  the  first  men  were  no 
longer  able  to  comprehend  each  other.  They  deter- 
mined to  leave  Tulan,  and  under  the  leadership  of 
the  god  Tohil  set  out  to  search  for  a  new  abode.  On 
they  wandered  through  innumerable  hardships.  Many 
mountains  had  they  to  climb,  and  a  long  passage  to 
make  through  the  sea,  which  was  miraculously  divided 
for  their  journey  from  shore  to  shore.  At  length  they 
came  to  a  mountain  which  they  called  Hacavitz, 
after  one  of  their  gods,  and  here  they  rested,  for  they 
had  been  instructed  that  at  that  spot  they  should  see 
the  sun.  And  the  sun  appeared.  Animals  and  men 
were  transported  with  delight.  All  the  celestial 
bodies  were  now  established. 

Following  this  many  towns  were  established  and 
sacrifices  offered,  and  the  narrative  shades  into  tribal 
history  mingled  with  legend.  The  four  founders  of 
the  Quiche  nation  died  singing  the  song  "  Kamucu," 


"  we  see,"  which  they  had  first  chanted  when  the 
light  appeared.  They  were  wrapped  together  in  one 
great  mummy-bundle,  the  allusion  being  obviously 
an  aetiological  myth  explanatory  of  the  origin  of 
mummification  and  wrapping  in  ceremonial  bindings 
later  prevalent  among  the  Central  American  peoples. 
The  remainder  of  the  account  is  genealogical  and 

As  regards  the  genuine  American  origin  of  the 
"  Popol  Vuh,"  that  is  now  generally  conceded.  To 
anyone  who  has  given  it  a  careful  examination  it 
must  be  abundantly  evident  that  it  is  a  composition 
which  has  passed  through  several  stages  of  develop- 
ment ;  that  it  is  unquestionably  of  aboriginal  origin, 
and  that  it  has  only  been  influenced  by  European 
thought  in  a  secondary  and  unessential  manner.  The 
very  fact  that  it  was  composed  in  the  Quiche  tongue 
is  almost  sufficient  proof  of  its  genuine  American 
character.  The  scholarship  of  the  nineteenth  century 
was  unequal  to  the  adequate  translation  of  the 
"  Popol  Vuh."  The  twentieth  century  has  as  yet 
shown  no  signs  of  being  able  to  accomplish  the  task. 
It  is,  therefore,  not  difficult  to  credit  that  if  modern 
scholarship  is  unable  to  properly  translate  the  work, 
that  of  the  eighteenth  century  was  unable  to  create 
it.  No  European  of  that  epoch  was  sufficiently  versed 
in  Quiche  theology  and  history  to  compose  in  faultless 
Quiche  such  a  work  as  the  "  Popol  Vuh,"  breathing 
as  it  does  in  every  line  an  intimate  and  natural 
acquaintance  with  the  antiquities  of  Guatemala. 

The  "  Popol  Vuh  "  is  not  the  only  mythi-historical 
work  composed  by  an  aboriginal  American.  In 
Mexico  Ixtlilxochitl,  and  in  Peru  Garcilasso  de  la 
Vega  wrote  exhaustive  treatises  upon  the  history  and 
customs  of  their  native  countrymen  shortly  after  the 
conquests  of  Mexico  and  Peru,  and  hieroglyphic 
records,  such  as  the  "  Wallam  Olum,"  are  not  un- 


known  among  the  North  American  Indians.  In  fact, 
the  intelligence  which  fails  to  regard  the  "  Popol 
Vuh  "  as  a  genuine  aboriginal  production  must  be 
more  sceptical  than  critical. 

At  the  same  time  it  is  evident  that  its  author  had 
been  influenced  to  some  slight  extent  by  Christian 
ideas,  though  not  to  the  degree  believed  in  by  some 
critics.  Many  of  the  seemingly  Pentateuchal  notions 
enshrined  in  the  "  Popol  Vuh,"  such  as  the  descrip- 
tion of  the  earth  as  being  "  without  form  and  void  " 
(though  these  are  not  the  actual  terms  employed),  are 
common  to  more  than  one  mythic  system,  and  when 
we  depart  from  the  cosmogonic  account  there  is  little 
to  strengthen  the  theory  of  Biblical  influence. 

In  the  cosmogony  of  the  "  Popol  Vuh  "  we  can  dis- 
cern the  sum  of  several  creation-stories.  A  number 
of  divine  beings  seem  to  exercise  the  creative  func- 
tions, and  it  would  appear  that  the  account  sum- 
marized above  was  due  to  the  fusion  and  reconcilia- 
tion of  more  than  one  cosmogonic  myth,  a  recon- 
ciliation, perhaps,  of  early  rival  faiths,  such  as  took 
place  in  Peru  and  Palestine.  We  find  certain  traces 
of  the  cosmogonic  belief  common  to  both  Maya  and 
Mexicans  that  time  had  been  divided  into  several 
elemental  epochs  governed  by  fire,  water,  wind,  etc., 
each  culminating  in  a  disaster  brought  about  by  the 
governing  element.  For  the  first  creative  essays  of 
the  Quiche  gods  are  destroyed  in  a  manner  reminis- 
cent of  the  Mexican  destruction  of  suns.  A  disaster 
to  mankind  by  fire  is  mentioned,  and  the  legend  of 
the  giants  serves  to  point  to  a  similar  overthrow  by 
earthquake.  But  the  belief  is  evidently  in  an  elemen- 
tary stage.  This  might  afford  grounds  for  thinking 
that  in  the  "  Popol  Vuh  "  we  have  the  remains  of 
cosmogonic  ideas  considerably  earlier  than  these 
formed  either  in  Maya  or  Mexican  myth,  and  the 
supposition  that  the  material  it  contains  is  more 


ancient  than  either,  pre-dating  the  fixed  and  carefully 
edited  cosmogonies  of  Mexico  and  Yucatan. 

The  Maya,  as  can  be  gleaned  from  the  Book  of 
Chilan  Balam  of  Mani,  believed  the  world  to  consist 
of  a  cubical  block,  tern,  "  the  altar  "  of  the  gods,  on 
which  rested  the  celestial  vase,  cum,  containing  the 
heavenly  waters,  the  rains  and  showers,  on  which 
depended  all  life  in  their  arid  country.  Within  it 
grew  the  Yax  che,  the  Tree  of  Life,  bearing  the  life- 
fruit  known  as  Yol.  In  the  "  Codex  Cortesianus  " 
we  find  such  a  design.  In  the  centre  rises  the  Tree 
of  Life  from  the  celestial  vase.  On  the  right  sits 
Xpiyacoc,  on  the  left  Xmucane,  the  Adam  and  Eve 
of  the  Maya  race.  The  earth  is  alluded  to  in  the 
*'  Popol  Vuh  "  as  "  the  quadrated  castle,  four-pointed, 
four-sided,  four-bordered,"  so  that  it  is  plain  that 
the  same  idea  concerning  its  structure  and  shape  was 
entertained  by  the  author  of  that  book  as  by  the 
later  Maya. 

As  regards  the  mythology  of  the  "  Popol  Vuh," 
we  must  bear  in  mind  that  we  are  dealing  with 
Quiche  and  not  with  Maya  myth,  but  it  is  now  possible 
to  draw  certain  parallels. 

For  Hun-Ahpu  and  Xbalanque,  the  "  hunters  with 
the  blow-pipe "  or  serbatana,  I  cannot  conscien- 
tiously trace  precise  parallels  in  either  Mexican  or 
Maya  myth.  That  they  are  hunting-gods  seems 
probable,  but  they  appear  to  me  to  have  charac- 
teristics which  might  permit  of  comparison  with  the 
Dioscuri  or  the  (very  obscure)  Cabiri.  They  are 
divine  brethren,  the  sons  of  Xpiyacoc  and  Xmucane, 
the  Quiche  "  Adam  and  Eve."  Hun-Ahpu  means 
"  magician  "  and  Xbalanque  "  Little  Tiger,"  and  we 
know  that  the  jaguar  balam  was  regarded  as  a  god 
among  the  Maya.  The  only  parallel  which  occurs  to 
me  is  that  of  the  "  twins  "  Uitzilopochtli  and  Tez- 
catlipoca,  who  also  undertook  a  journey  to  the  Under- 


world,  and  who  are  respectively  associated  with  magic 
and  the  "  tiger,"  or  jaguar,  and  I  consider  it  very 
probable  that  they  had  a  common  and  remote  origin. 

A  word  may  be  ventured  regarding  Xibalba,  the 
Quiche  Underworld,  described  in  the  "  Popol  Vuh  " 
as  a  shadowy  subterranean  sphere  not  unlike  the 
Greek  Hades.  A  hell,  an  abode  of  bad  spirits  as  dis- 
tinguished from  beneficent  gods,  Xibalba  was  not. 
The  Maya  Indian  was  innocent  of  the  idea  of 
maleficent  deities  pitted  in  everlasting  warfare  against 
good  and  life-giving  gods  until  contact  with  the 
whites  coloured  his  mythology  with  their  idea  of  the 
dual  nature  of  supernatural  beings.  The  transcriber 
of  the  "  Popol  Vuh  "  makes  this  clear  so  far  as  Quiche 
belief  went.  He  says  of  the  Lords  of  Xibalba,  Hun- 
Came,  and  Vukub-Came  :  "In  the  old  times  they  did 
not  have  much  power.  They  are  but  annoyers  and 
opposers  of  men,  and,  in  truth,  they  were  not  regarded 
as  gods.'9  If  not  regarded  as  gods,  then,  what  were 

"  The  devil,"  says  Cogolludo  of  the  Mayas,  "  is 
called  by  them  Xibalba,  which  means  he  who  dis- 
appears or  vanishes."  The  derivation  of  Xibalba  is 
from  a  root  meaning  "  to  fear,"  from  which  comes 
the  name  for  a  ghost  or  phantom.  Xibalba  was, 
then,  the  Place  of  Phantoms.  But  it  was  not  the  Place 
of  Torment,  the  abode  of  a  devil  who  presided  over 
punishment.  The  idea  of  sin  is  weak  in  the  savage 
mind,  and  the  idea  of  punishment  for  sin  in  a  future 
state  is  unknown  in  pre-Christian  American  mythology. 
4  Under  the  influence  of  Christian  catechizing," 
says  Brinton,  "  the  Quiche  legends  portray  this 
realm  as  a  place  of  torment,  and  its  rulers  as  malig- 
nant and  powerful ;  but  as  I  have  before  pointed  out 
they  do  so  protesting  that  such  was  not  the  ancient 
belief,  and  they  let  fall  no  word  that  shows  that  it 
was  regarded  as  the  destination  of  the  morally  bad. 


The  original  meaning  of  the  name  given  by  Cogolludo 
points  unmistakably  to  the  simple  fact  of  disappear- 
ance from  among  men,  and  corresponds  in  harmless- 
ness  to  the  true  sense  of  those  words  of  fear,  Scheol, 
Hades,  Hell,  all  signifying  hidden  from  sight,  and 
only  endowed  with  more  grim  associations  by  the 
imaginations  of  later  generations." 

The  idea  of  consigning  elder  peoples  who  have  been 
displaced  in  the  land  to  an  Underworld,  is  not  un- 
common in  mythology.  The  Xibalbans,  or  aborigines, 
were  perhaps  cave-  or  earth-dwellers  like  the  "  wee 
folk "  of  Scottish  folk-lore,  gnomish,  and  full  of 
elvish  tricks,  as  such  folk  usually  are.  Vanished 
people  are,  too,  often  classed  with  the  dead,  or  as 
lords  of  the  dead.  It  is  well  known  also  that  legend 
speedily  crystallizes  around  the  name  of  a  dispossessed 
race,  to  whom  is  attributed  every  description  of  magic 
art.  This  is  sometimes  accounted  for  by  the  fact 
that  the  displaced  people  possessed  a  higher  culture 
than  their  invaders,  and  sometimes,  probably,  by 
the  dread  which  all  barbarian  peoples  have  of  a 
religion  in  any  way  differing  from  their  own.  Thus 
the  Norwegians  credited  the  Finns — their  predeces- 
sors in  Norway — with  tremendous  magical  powers, 
and  similar  instances  of  respectful  timidity  shown  by 
invading  races  towards  the  original  inhabitants  of  the 
country  they  had  conquered  could  readily  be  multi- 
plied. To  be  tricked,  the  barbarian  regards  as  a 
mortal  indignity,  as  witness  the  wrath  of  Thor  in 
Jotunheim,  comparable  with  the  sensitiveness  of 
Hun-Ahpu  and  Xbalanque,  lest  they  should  be  out- 
witted by  the  Xibalbans.  Still,  the  story  of  the  visit 
of  the  younger  hero-gods  to  Xibalba  bears  a  close 
resemblance  to  other  legends,  pagan  and  Christian, 
of  the  "  Harrying  of  Hell,"  the  conquest  of  Death 
and  Sin  by  Goodness,  the  triumph  of  light  over  dark- 
ness, of  Ra-Osiris  over  Amenti.  So,  too,  with  the 


game  of  ball,  which  figures  very  largely  throughout 
the  Third  Book.  The  father  and  uncle  of  the  young 
hero-gods  were  worsted  in  their  favourite  sport  by 
the  Xibalbans,  but  Hun-Ahpu  and  Xbalanque  in  their 
turn  vanquished  the  Lords  of  the  Underworld.  This 
may  have  resembled  the  Mexican  game  of  tlachtli, 
which  was  played  in  an  enclosed  court  with  a  rubber 
ball  between  two  opposite  sides,  each  of  two  or  three 
players.  It  was,  in  fact,  not  unlike  hockey.  This 
game  of  ball  between  the  Powers  of  Light  and  the 
Powers  of  Darkness  is  somewhat  reminiscent  of  that 
between  Ormuzd  and  Ahriman  in  Persian  myth.  The 
game  of  tlachtli  had  a  symbolic  reference  to  stellar 

The  books  of  Chilan  Balam  are  native  compilations 
of  events  among  the  Maya  previous  to  the  Spanish 
Conquest,  and  written  by  Maya  Indian  scribes  in  the 
characters  invented  and  taught  by  the  Spanish  monks 
as  suitable  to  the  Maya  tongue.  They  embody  the 
old  traditions  lingering  in  the  memory  of  individuals 
concerning  the  doings  of  the  Maya  people  before  the 
coming  of  the  Spaniards,  though  some  belong  to 
the  end  of  the  sixteenth  and  the  first  half  of  the  seven- 
teenth centuries.  They  exist  in  various  transcripts  in 
Yucatan,  and  were  first  copied  by  Dr.  Hermann 
Behrendt,  whose  transcriptions  were  purchased  by 
Dr.  Brinton.  They  may  be  regarded  as  offshoots  of  the 
Maya  MSS.  and  treat  in  general  of  matters  given  in 
portions  of  these  ;  they  contain  also  a  substratum  of 
historic  information  which  has  been  preserved  by 
tradition.  They  are  primarily  brief  chronicles, 
recounting  the  divisions  of  time,  the  periods  known 
to  the  Mayas  as  katuns,  which  had  elapsed  since  their 
coming  to  Mayapan. 

Spanish  notices  of  what  are  known  to  the  old  his- 
torians as  the  prophecies  of  Chilan  Balam  are  rare. 
The  fullest  is  that  of  Villagutierre  in  his  "  Historia  de 


el  Itza,  ye  de  el  Lacandon."  The  prophecies  purport 
to  be  those  of  the  priest  who  bore  the  title — not 
name — of  Chilan  Balam,  whose  offices  were  those  of 
divination  and  astrology.  Villagutierre's  statement 
is  to  the  effect  that  Chilan  Balam,  high  priest  of 
Tixcacayon  Cabick  in  Mani,  prophesied  the  coming 
of  the  Spaniards  as  follows  : 

"  At  the  end  of  the  thirteenth  age,  when  Itza  is 
at  the  height  of  its  power,  as  also  the  city  called 
Tancoh,  which  is  between  Yacman  and  Tichaquillo, 
the  signal  of  God  will  appear  on  the  heights  ;  and 
the  Cross,  with  which  the  world  was  enlightened,  will 
be  manifested.  There  will  be  variance  of  men's  will 
in  future  times,  when  the  signal  shall  be  brought. 
Ye  priests,  before  coming  even  a  quarter  of  a  league, 
ye  shall  see  the  Cross,  which  will  appear  and  lighten 
up  the  sky  from  pole  to  pole.  The  worship  of  vain 
gods  shall  cease.  Your  father  comes,  O  Itzalanos  ! 
Your  brother  comes,  O  Tantunites  !  Receive  your 
barbarous  bearded  guests  from  the  East,  who  bring 
the  signal  of  God  who  comes  to  us  in  mercy  and  pity. 
The  time  of  our  life  is  coming.  You  have  nothing  to 
fear  from  the  world.  Thou  art  the  living  God,  who 
created  us  in  mercy.  The  words  of  God  are  good  : 
let  us  lift  up  His  signal  to  see  it  and  adore  it :  we 
must  raise  the  Cross  in  opposition  to  the  falsehood 
we  now  see.  Before  the  first  tree  of  the  world  now  is 
a  manifestation  made  to  the  world  :  this  is  the  signal 
of  a  God  on  high  :  adore  this,  ye  people  of  Itza  ! 
Let  us  adore  it  with  uprightness  of  heart.  Let  us 
adore  Him  who  is  our  God,  the  true  God  :  receive 
the  word  of  the  true  God,  for  He  who  speaks  to  you 
comes  from  heaven.  Ponder  this  well,  and  be  the 
men  of  Itza.  They  who  believe  shall  have  light  in  the 
age  which  is  to  come.  I,  your  teacher  and  master, 
Balam,  warn  and  charge  you  to  look  at  the  import- 
ance of  my  words.  Thus  have  I  finished  what  the 


true  God  commanded  me  to  say,  that  the  world  might 
hear  it." 

It  is  not  difficult  to  see  in  this  account  of  the  pro- 
phecy certain  signs  which  at  once  mark  it  as  spurious. 
The  chief  of  these  are  the  scriptural  character  of  the 
language  employed  and  the  much  too  definite  terms 
in  which  the  prophecy  is  couched. 

These  considerations  lead  us  first  to  an  examination 
of  the  books  with  a  view  to  discovering  whether  or 
not  they  are  genuinely  aboriginal  in  character.  There 
can  be  no  doubt  that,  as  in  the  case  of  the  Quiche 
"  Popol  Vuh,"  a  genuine  substratum  of  native  tradi- 
tion has  been  overlaid  and  coloured  by  the  Christian 
influence  of  the  early  Spanish  missionaries.  The 
genuine  aboriginal  character  of  this  substratum  is 
clear  from  internal  evidence,  matters  being  dealt 
with  in  a  manner  which  betrays  an  aboriginal  cast 
of  thought,  and  knowledge  of  Maya  manners  being 
revealed  in  a  way  that  no  Spaniard  of  the  period  was 
capable  of  achieving.  At  the  same  time,  the  evidence 
of  priestly  editing  is  by  no  means  far  to  seek,  and 
must  be  patent  to  the  most  superficial  reader.  The 
evidence  of  language  also  points  to  the  authenticity 
of  these  productions.  Such  an  idiomatic  use  of  the 
ancient  Maya  tongue  as  they  betray  could  have  been 
employed  by  none  but  persons  who  had  used  it 
habitually  from  infancy.  The  trend  of  thought,  as 
displayed  in  American  languages,  differs  so  radically 
from  that  shown  in  European  tongues  as  to  afford 
almost  no  analogy  whatever  ;  and  this  is  well  exem- 
plified in  these  curious  books.  Their  authenticity  has 
been  called  in  question  by  several  superficial  students 
of  the  American  languages,  whose  studies  have  been 
made  at  secondhand.  But  no  authority  of  the  first 
class  has  doubted  their  genuine  aboriginal  character. 
As  regards  the  authenticity  of  the  prophecies,  it  is 
known  that,  at  the  close  of  the  divisions  of  time 


known  as  katuns,  a  chilan.  or  prophet,  was  wont  to 
utter  publicly  a  prediction  forecasting  the  nature  of 
the  similar  period  to  come  ;  and  there  is  no  reason 
to  doubt  that  some  distant  rumours  of  the  coming 
of  the  white  man  had  reached  the  ears  of  several  of 
the  seers.  So  far  as  the  reference  to  the  Cross  is 
concerned,  it  may  be  observed  that  the  Maya  word 
rendered  "  cross  "  by  the  missionaries  simply  signifies 
"  a  piece  of  wood  set  upright  "  ;  but  cruciform  shapes 
were  well  known  to  the  Maya. 

The  natives  were  greatly  disturbed  at  the  destruc- 
tion of  their  sacred  records  by  the  Spanish  monks 
and,  as  many  of  them  had  acquired  the  European 
alphabet,  and  the  missionaries  had  added  to  it  several 
signs  to  express  Maya  sounds  foreign  to  Spanish  ears, 
a  number  of  native  scribes  set  to  work  to  write  out 
in  the  new  alphabet  the  contents  of  their  ancient 
records.  In  this  they  were,  doubtless,  aided  by  the 
wonderful  mnemonic  powers  which  were  so  assidu- 
ously cultivated  by  the  American  races,  and  they 
probably  further  relied  upon  such  secretly  preserved 
archives  as  they  could  obtain.  They  added  much 
new  European  lore,  and  omitted  a  considerable  body 
of  native  tradition.  The  result  of  their  labours  was 
a  number  of  books,  varying  in  merit  and  contents, 
but  known  collectively  as  "  the  Books  of  Chilan 
Balam,"  these  being  severally  distinguished  by  the 
name  of  the  village  where  each  was  composed  or  dis- 
covered. It  is  probable  that  in  the  seventeenth 
century  every  village  contained  a  copy  of  the  native 
records  ;  but  various  causes  have  combined  to  destroy 
the  majority  of  them.  There  still  remain  portions  or 
descriptions  of  at  least  sixteen  of  these  records, 
designated  by  the  names  of  the  several  places  where 
they  were  written,  as,  for  example  :  the  Book  of 
Chilan  Balam,  of  Chumayel,  of  Nabula,  of  Kaua,  of 
Mani,  of  Oxkutzcab,  of  Ixil,  of  Tihosuco,  of  Tixcocob. 

Ira  .* 


MYSTICAL  BOOKS   OF  THE  MAYA         259 

"  Chilan,"  says  Landa,  second  Bishop  of  Yucatan, 
"  was  the  name  of  their  priests  whose  duty  it  was  to 
teach  the  sciences,  to  appoint  holy  days,  to  treat  the 
sick,  to  offer  sacrifices,  and  especially  to  utter  the 
oracles  of  the  gods.  They  were  so  highly  honoured 
by  the  people  that  they  were  carried  on  litters  on  the 
shoulders  of  the  devotees."  The  derivation  of  the 
name  is  from  chij,  "  the  mouth,"  and  signifies  "  inter- 
preter." The  word  balam  means  "  tiger,"  and  was 
used  in  connection  with  a  priestly  caste,  being  still 
employed  by  the  Maya  Indians  as  a  name  for  those 
spirits  who  are  supposed  to  protect  fields  and  towns. 

It  is  seldom  that  the  names  of  the  writers  of  these 
books  are  given,  as  in  all  probability  the  compilations, 
as  we  have  them,  are  but  copies  of  still  older  manu- 
scripts, with  additions  of  more  recent  events  by  the 

The  contents  of  the  various  books  of  Chilan  Balam 
may  be  classified  under  :  astrology  and  prophecy, 
chronology  and  history,  medico-religious  practice,  and 
later  history  and  Christian  teachings. 

The  astrology  is  an  admixture  of  Maya  stellar 
divination  and  that  borrowed  from  European  almanacs 
of  the  century  between  1550  and  1650,  which  are  no 
less  superstitious  in  their  leanings  than  the  native 
products.  Prophecies  such  as  that  quoted  at  length 
above  abound. 

The  books  of  Chilan  Balam  are,  however,  chiefly 
valuable  for  the  light  they  throw  upon  the  chrono- 
logical system  and  ancient  history  of  the  Maya.  The 
periods  of  events  in  which  they  deal  are  designated 
katuns,  and  are  of  considerable  length,  but ,  their 
actual  extent  has  not  been  agreed  upon.  The  older 
Spanish  authors  make  their  duration  twenty  years 
(the  length  of  time  alluded  to  in  the  text  of  the  books), 
but  marginal  notes  imply  that  they  consisted  of 
twenty-four  years.  As,  however,  these  notes  have 


been  added  by  a  later  hand  the  original  computation  is 
possibly  the  correct  one.  But  it  is  still  more  likely 
that  the  length  of  the  katun  was  neither  20  nor  24 
years,  but  20X360  days. 

The  cure  of  various  diseases  is  exhaustively  treated 
by  the  authors  of  the  books.  Landa  relates  that 
"  the  chilanes  were  sorcerers  and  doctors,"  and  we 
shall  probably  not  be  far  wrong  if  we  compare  them 
with  the  medicine-men  of  other  American  tribes. 
The  MSS.  abound  in  descriptions  of  symptoms  and 
hints  for  diagnosis,  and  suggest  many  remedies.  The 
preparation  of  native  plants  and  bleeding  are  the  chief 
among  these,  but  several  appear  to  have  been  bor- 
rowed from  a  physic  book  of  European  origin. 
Brinton  states  that  Dr.  Behrendt,  who  first  copied 
these  books,  and  who  was  himself  a  physician,  left 
a  large  manuscript  on  the  subject,  entitled  "  Rece- 
tarios  de  Indios,"  in  which  he  states  that  the  scientific 
value  of  these  remedies  is  next  to  nothing,  and  that 
the  language  in  which  they  are  recorded  is  distinctly 
inferior  to  the  remainder  of  the  books.  He  held 
that  this  portion  of  these  records  was  supplanted  some 
time  in  the  last  century  by  medical  knowledge  intro- 
duced from  Europe.  This,  indeed,  is  admitted  by  the 
copyists  of  the  books,  who  probably  took  them  from 
a  mediaeval  work  on  Spanish  medicine  known  as 
"El  Libro  del  Judio,"  "  the  Book  of  the  Jew." 



THE  name  Kab-ul,  "  the  Great  or  Magic 
Hand,"  is  one  which  should  signify  for  us 
perhaps  one  of  the  most  interesting  and 
arresting  figures  in  Maya  mysticism.  He  is,  of  course, 
a  type  or  phase  of  Itzamna,  the  personification  of  the 
East  or  the  rising  sun,  which  brought  the  beneficent 
mists  and  dews  of  the  morning  to  the  torrid  land  of 
Yucatan.  He  was  said  to  have  come  in  his  enchanted 
boat  across  the  waters  from  the  East,  and  therefore 
he  presided  over  that  quarter  of  the  world  and  the 
days  and  years  assigned  to  it.  Says  Brinton  : 

"  For  similar  reasons  he  received  the  name  Lakin 
chan,  '  the  Serpent  of  the  East,'  under  which  he  seems 
to  have  been  popularly  known.  As  light  is  synony- 
mous with  both  life  and  knowledge,  he  was  said  to 
have  been  the  creator  of  men,  animals,  and  plants, 
and  was  the  founder  of  the  culture  of  the  Mayas. 
He  was  the  first  priest  of  their  religion,  and  invented 
writing  and  books  ;  he  gave  the  names  to  the  various 
localities  in  Yucatan,  and  divided  the  land  among  the 
people  ;  as  a  physician  he  was  famous,  knowing  not 
only  the  magic  herbs,  but  possessing  the  power  of 
healing  by  touch,  whence  his  name  Kabil,  '  the  skil- 
ful hand,'  under  which  he  was  worshipped  in  Chichen- 
Itza.  For  his  wisdom  he  was  spoken  of  as  Yax  coc 
ah-mut,  '  the  royal  or  noble  master  of  knowledge.'  " 



His  consort  was  the  goddess  Ix-chel,  the  Rainbow, 
also  known  as  Ix  Kan  Leom,  "  the  spider's  web," 
which  catches  the  dew  of  the  morning.  She  was 
goddess  of  medicine,  and  her  children  were  the  Bacabs, 
the  gods  of  the  four  cardinal  points,  who  ruled  over 
the  calendar,  and  represented  the  worship  of  the  four 
sections  or  houses  of  the  heavens,  each  having  different 
colours,  cycles,  and  elements  mythically  and  magically 
associated  with  them. 

He  is,  so  far  as  it  is  possible  to  judge,  the  "  God  K  " 
of  Schellhas,  and  the  "doublet"  of  Kukulkan,  or 
Quetzalcoatl,  in  the  character  of  rising  sun  to  Kukul- 
kan's  setting  sun,  much  as  Ra  occupied  the  former 
place  and  Osiris  the  latter  in  the  religion  of  Egypt. 
And,  like  Kukulkan,  he  is  a  great  master  of  magic 
and  a  repository  of  magical  thought.  That  a  whole 
corpus  of  magical  knowledge,  well  digested  and  quite 
philosophical  in  its  character,  centred  in  the  idea  of 
these  twin  deities  who  can  doubt  ? 

That  this  arose  out  of  a  nature  symbolism,  as  it 
did  elsewhere,  seems  certain.  Indeed,  the  allegory  of 
nature  symbolism  lies  at  the  root  of  all  early  magical 
and  philosophical  lore.  The  knowledge  of  the  Maya, 
their  entire  system  of  thought,  was  founded  on  the 
operations  of  the  celestial  bodies  and  fixed  on  the 
temporal  appearance  and  reappearance  of  these 
bodies,  and  the  processes  of  growth. 

The  immovable  brilliance  of  the  fixed  stars  must 
have  imprinted  itself  upon  the  eye  and  the  imagination 
of  man  almost  from  the  first,  must  have  intrigued  and 
puzzled  him,  or  have  been  accepted  by  him  without 
emotion  as  a  phenomenon  duly  to  be  explained  away 
in  terms  of  myth. 

He  seems  to  have  invested  the  planets  not  only 
with  godhead  but  with  sex  as  well.  The  Sun  was  male 
and  the  Moon  female.  But  as  he  advanced  in  know- 
ledge and  observation,  he  included  the  lesser  lights 


in  the  celestial  family.  He  found  that  Venus  and 
Mercury  never  travelled  beyond  a  certain  limit, 
and  these  he  associated  with  the  Sun  as  wife  and  son 
respectively.  Still  later,  taking  the  Earth  as  the 
centre  of  the  Universe,  he  arranged  the  Moon, 
Mercury,  and  Venus  to  the  dexter  side  of  the  Sun, 
regarding  their  alternation  as  morning  and  evening 
stars  as  fortunate  or  the  reverse.  Mars,  Jupiter,  and 
Saturn,  which  seemed  to  him  less  under  the  control 
of  the  central  luminary,  he  relegated  to  the  sinister 
sphere,  permitting  to  Jupiter,  however,  a  less  bad 
eminence  because  of  his  chiefship  among  the  three — 
an  exception  which  finally  resulted  in  something  of  a 
beneficent  reputation  being  achieved  for  that  planet. 
Mars  and  Saturn,  however,  were  definitely  evil,  the 
first  a  quick-moving,  restless  orb  of  destructive  ten- 
dencies, the  other  an  ancient  wizard  of  dire  pro- 

The  life  of  early  man  was  closely  interrelated  with 
the  incidence  of  solar  and  lunar  phenomena.  Changes 
of  temperature  and  weather  affected  his  hunting 
expeditions.  The  behaviour  of  the  Moon  and  its 
connection  with  the  tides  must  have  strongly  in- 
fluenced his  imagination,  and  in  the  event  begot  a 
whole  folk-lore  of  its  own.  It  is  now  clear,  too,  that 
she  was  regarded  as  the  repository  of  magic,  the  great 
tank  or  reservoir  whence  the  mystic  influence  of 
mana,  orenda,  or  faery  emanated,  and  she  had  in- 
fluence upon  childbirth  as  the  place  whence  new 
souls  were  supposed  to  be  sent  to  inhabit  earthly 

The  idea  that  the  stars  are  gods  or  great  men 
translated  to  the  heavens,  is  widespread  among 
savages  and,  in  a  measure,  lies  at  the  very  roots  of 
astrological  belief.  The  constellations  are  frequently 
supposed  to  represent  personages,  and  some,  especi- 
ally in  Australia,  are  chiefly  connected  with  the 


totemic  system  of  several  of  the  tribes.  The  stars, 
among  primitive  people,  have  a  useful  significance 
and  perform  a  more  important  function  than  the  Sun, 
for  by  their  movements  the  times  of  feasts  and 
ceremonies  are  determined,  and  they  serve  as  a  kind 
of  calendar  by  means  of  which  the  savage  agriculturist 
can  regulate  the  cultivation  of  the  soil.  Thus  they 
came  to  have  a  very  real  meaning  for  early  man. 
Strange  omens  and  signs  connected  with  them  had, 
also,  a  significance  which,  naturally,  could  not  be 
ignored.  The  germ  of  astrological  belief  is  certainly 
to  be  found  among  many  savage  peoples.  Thus 
Shortland  discovered  that  the  Maories,  when  about 
to  attack  a  position,  professed  to  be  able  to  foretell  the 
result  by  the  relative  appearance  of  Venus  and  the 
Moon.  If  the  planet  were  above  the  Moon,  the 
attackers  would  be  victorious ;  if  beneath,  the 
defenders  would  triumph. 

Once  the  idea  of  personality,  of  godhead,  had  been 
connected  with  the  planets,  they  were  regarded  as 
powerful  enchanters  or  deities  who  were  constantly 
striving  to  direct  the  actions  of  man  in  such  a  manner 
as  to  bring  them  into  harmony  with  some  vaster  plan 
of  their  own.  The  idea  of  a  cosmic  symphony  had 
been  established.  Man  must  work  in  harmony  with 
the  higher  powers.  But  in  due  course  it  was  observed 
that  the  lesser  planets  differed  from  the  great  lumi- 
naries of  day  and  night  in  one  important  respect. 
The  paths  of  the  latter  were  circular,  while  those  of 
the  planets  proper  executed  a  curved  line  or  epicycle. 
They  waxed  and  waned  in  magnitude.  In  the  course 
of  a  single  night  the  early  man  of  Europe  or  Asia 
could  behold  almost  all  the  stars  visible  in  our  latitude. 
He  fixed  two  lines  for  observational  purposes,  one 
running  east  and  west,  the  other  north  and  south 
from  where  he  stood,  and  discovered  a  stationary 
point  in  the  north  pole  and  the  star  lying  nearest  to  it. 


When  he  had  ascertained  the  eastern  and  western 
points  of  his  horizon  and  his  meridian,  he  began 
to  relate  the  paths  of  the  planets  to  these.  This 
naturally  resulted  in  the  division  of  the  heavens  into 
"  houses,"  in  which  the  constantly  changing  courses 
of  the  planets  might  be  observed. 

The  Mexicans  and  Maya  divided  the  heavens  into 
four  quarters,  and  these  are  reflected  in  their  tonala- 
matls,  or  "  Books  of  Fate."  Thus  they  have  really 
only  four  "  houses  "  of  astrological  significance.  But, 
like  the  peoples  of  Asia  and  Europe,  they  believed  in 
the  repercussion  of  the  planets  on  the  various  parts 
of  the  human  body.  The  several  day-signs,  which 
were  obviously  stellar  in  their  origin,  were  supposed 
to  govern  the  several  human  limbs  and  organs,  as  we 
have  seen  in  the  chapter  on  Mexican  Astrology. 

We  thus  see  how  this  species  of  arcane  thought 
began  to  take  shape  and  to  develop  into  a  definite 
system  with  amazing  ramifications.  But  can  we  go 
farther  and  discover  in  it  a  still  deeper  significance 
than  that  which  seems  to  have  sprung  merely  from 
a  slowly  evolved  belief  in  the  physical  effects  of  the 
heavenly  bodies  ? 

For  this  we  certainly  must  look,  for  its  beginnings, 
at  least,  to  the  figure  of  Quetzalcoatl,  or  Kukulkan. 
He  is,  as  Seler  says,  "  the  embodiment  of  the  cult 
which  in  its  essentials  was  solely  established  for  the 
purpose  of  obtaining  for  the  people  the  rain  needed 
for  their  crops  in  sufficient  quantity  and  at  the  right 
time.  As  the  beginnings  of  this  cult  and  the  develop- 
ment of  the  priestly  order  certainly  dated  from  hoary 
prehistoric  times,  or  at  all  events  were  supposed  to  do 
so,  Quetzalcoatl  himself  further  became  the  king, 
priest,  and  tribal  god  of  the  nation  of  the  Toltecs, 
who  were  regarded  as  the  first  settlers,  the  inventors 
of  all  culture,  of  all  arts  and  knowledge.  Indeed,  it 
is  quite  conceivable  that  to  this  association  of  ideas 


corresponds  a  measure  of  historic  truth  that  in  this 
first  notion  the  rain-dispensing  deity  and  the  rain- 
making  priest  were  merged  in  one,  and  by  it  this 
special  conception  of  the  deity  was  transmitted  to  the 
fol  owing  generations.  In  any  case  it  accords  with 
this  view  that  the  same  god  was  later  regarded  as 
the  inventor  of  all  other  priestly  arts  of  vaticination, 
witchcraft,  calendric  lore,  and  astronomy,  and  was, 
in  fact,  identified  with  the  Morning  Star,  the  orb, 
which,  as  we  have  seen,  became  the  initial  point  of 
the  system  of  day-counts  based  on  the  combination 
of  the  numerals  13  and  20.  On  the  other  hand,  a 
second  feature  which  is  amongst  the  most  prominent 
in  the  myth  of  this  god — his  wandering  forth  to  the 
land  on  the  Atlantic  seaboard,  the  Tlillan  Tlapallan, 
the  Tlatlayan,  '  the  land  of  the  black  and  of  the  red 
colour,'  '  the  place  of  conflagration,'  his  death  there, 
combined  with  the  expectation  of  a  future  return — 
may  have  its  explanation  partly  in  actual  historical 
events,  partly  in  other  mythological  notions." 

Out  of  these  ideas,  then,  arose  the  figure  of  Quetzal- 
coatl,  the  great  magician,  and  a  specific  lore  came  to  be 
associated  with  him.  He  was  said  to  be  the  creator- 
god,  and  in  other  places  the  son  of  the  creative  deities. 
He  was  also  the  Morning  Star,  Venus,  to  the  course 
of  which  the  duration  of  the  tonalamatl  or  "  Book  of 
Fate  "  stands  in  relationship.  His  direct  opposite  is 
Tezcatlipoca,  the  dark  god.  We  have  thus  a  system  of 
duality,  in  which  Quetzalcoatl  is  the  white  magician 
and  Tezcatlipoca  the  black  magician.  All  the  lore  of 
light  sprang  from  the  former,  all  the  magic  of  the  lower 
cultus  from  the  latter.  They  fight,  as  do  Ormuz  and 
Ahriman  in  Persian  myth,  and  when  Quetzalcoatl 
retires,  drought  and  evil  naturally  follow.  But  Quet- 
zalcoatl will  return  and  with  him  the  good  days. 

So  what  had  once  a  merely  seasonal  significance 
came  also  to  have  an  arcane  meaning.  At  the  time  of 



the  Spanish  conquest  of  Mexico  Quetzalcoatl's  star 
was  certainly  not  in  the  ascendant,  his  priesthood 
seems  to  have  been  rather  under  a  cloud,  and  the  evil 
notion  that  Tezcatlipoca  had  conquered  for  a  while  led 
to  those  abominable  holocausts  of  humanity  in  sacri- 
fice which  have  blackened  the  name  of  the  ancient 
Mexicans.  The  people  really  believed  themselves  to 
be  under  the  sway  of  the  black  magician  Tezcatlipoca, 
and  when  Cortes  arrived  they  were  joyful  at  first 
because  they  were  under  the  impression  that  the  bene- 
ficent Quetzalcoatl  had  actually  returned.  They  were, 
of  course,  speedily  disillusioned,  but  that  is  beside  the 

Assuredly  Quetzalcoatl  returned  every  rainy  season 
to  water  the  crops.  But  there  was  another  and  a 
spiritual  sense  in  which  he  did  not  return,  and  that 
this  was  realized  by  the  Mexicans  is  revealed  by  the 
fact  that  at  the  period  of  the  Conquest  they  relied 
much  more  on  human  sacrifice  and  the  shedding  of 
blood  to  the  maize  gods  to  ensure  good  crops  than  on 
the  ancient  rain-making  ritual  associated  with  Quet- 
zalcoatl's cult.  All  Mexico  sighed  for  his  reappear- 
ance, and  saw  his  advent  in  the  coming  of  Cortes. 
When  Montezuma  learned  of  the  Conquistador's 
arrival  he  actually  sent  him  the  four  costumes  appro- 
priate to  Quetzalcoatl,  and  it  was  only  when  he  heard 
of  the  barbarities  committed  by  the  Spaniards  that 
he  forbade  their  approach  to  the  city  of  Mexico. 

This  makes  it  clear  that  the  thinking  classes  of 
Mexico  and  Yucatan  were  desirous  of  Quetzalcoatl's 
return,  that  they  practised  his  cult,  and  probably 
made  every  endeavour  to  hasten  his  advent  by  magical 
means.  The  priesthood  of  Tezcatlipoca,  on  the  other 
hand,  strenuously  opposed  the  idea,  and  there  is  some 
evidence  that  they  had  been  engaged  in  doing  so  for 
a  considerable  time.  Quetzalcoatl  is  said  to  have 
closed  his  ears  with  both  hands  when  human  sacrifices 


were  mentioned,  and  the  wise  Nezahualcoyotl,  the 
poet-king  of  Tezcuco,  not  only  prophesied  the  return 
of  Quetzalcoatl,  but  cast  doubt  on  the  ability  of  the 
sanguinary  gods  to  aid  him,  saying : 

"  Verily,  these  gods  that  I  am  adoring,  what  are 
they  but  idols  of  stone  without  speech  or  feeling  ? 
They  could  not  have  made  the  beauty  of  the  heaven, 
the  sun,  the  moon,  and  the  stars  which  adorn  it, 
and  which  light  the  earth,  with  its  countless  streams, 
its  fountains  and  waters,  its  trees  and  plants,  and  its 
various  inhabitants.  There  must  be  some  god,  in- 
visible and  unknown,  who  is  the  universal  creator. 
He  alone  can  console  me  in  my  affliction  and  take 
away  my  sorrow." 

Strengthened  in  this  conviction  by  a  timely  fulfil- 
ment of  his  heart's  desire,  he  erected  a  temple  nine 
stories  high  to  represent  the  nine  heavens,  which  he 
dedicated  "  to  the  Unknown  God,  the  Cause  of 
Causes."  This  temple,  he  ordained,  should  never  be 
polluted  by  blood,  nor  should  any  graven  image  ever 
be  set  up  within  its  precincts. 

What  then  resided  at  the  heart  of  this  dualism, 
what  was  the  particular  nature  of  the  philosophy 
which  inspired  a  belief  in  the  wisdom-religion  or 
magic  of  beneficence,  and  what,  alternatively,  lay  at 
the  roots  of  the  magic  of  evil  so  prominent  in  Mexico  ? 

The  "  white  magic  "  of  Quetzalcoatl  was  evidently 
the  outcome  of  an  imported  system,  possibly  allied 
to  Buddhism,  possibly  to  some  European  mystical 
system.  The  Polynesian  peoples  cultivated  a  species 
of  debased  Buddhism,  but  that  which  seems  to  have 
penetrated  to  Central  America  appears  to  have  been 
of  a  more  exalted  type.  The  one  alternative  to 
the  theory  of  importation  from  Asia  is  that  of  the 
introduction  of  some  form  of  European  mysticism, 
Celtic  or  Mediterranean.  Yet  the  peculiarly  Asiatic 
character  of  the  statues  of  Kukulkan,  QuetzalcoatPs 


Yucatecan  type,  and  the  similarity  of  Maya  architec- 
ture and  art  to  Asiatic  forms  rather  discount  the  latter 
theory.  If  we  do  not  accept  the  idea  of  importation 
we  are  left  with  the  hypothesis  of  the  native  develop- 
ment of  the  Quetzalcoatl  cult,  a  highly  improbable 
contingency,  having  regard  to  all  the  circumstances. 

Whatever  its  origin,  the  Quetzalcoatl  philosophy 
must  inevitably  be  regarded  as  of  the  nature  of  a  wis- 
dom-religion inculcating  the  dogmas  of  the  higher 
mysticism,  and  founded  on  Mexican  soil  by  an  actual 
person.  It  taught  the  belief  in  the  return  of  the  soul 
to  earth  after  a  sojourn  in  a  place  of  refreshment. 
The  whole  circumstances  of  Quetzalcoatl's  myth 
bear  such  a  strong  resemblance  to  the  rites  and  doc- 
trines of  initiatory  ceremonies  as  found  elsewhere 
that  we  cannot  surely  be  mistaken  in  equating  them 
with  these  as  regards  their  general  character.1 

Quetzalcoatl,  before  passing  to  Tollan-tlapallan 
falls  sick,  that  is,  the  initiate  is  undergoing  the  usual 
mental  stress  which  precedes  the  ceremony,  the 
longing  for  Otherwhere.  He  is  given  a  draught  from 
the  sacred  cup,  and  becomes  "  intoxicated,"  that  is, 
rapt  in  spiritual  contemplation.  He  abandons  his 
palaces,  his  gold  and  silver,  the  treasures  of  this 
world,  as  did  the  Greek  mystics,  and  becomes  "  old  " 
in  arcane  experience.  Preceded  by  flute-players,  the 
typical  instrumentalists  of  the  Mysteries,  he  proceeds 
on  his  "  journey,"  reaches  the  river  of  the  initiates, 
which  is  similar  to  the  Styx  of  the  Greek  Mysteries, 
or  to  that  crossed  by  the  heroes  in  the  "  Popol  Vuh," 
and  crosses  it  by  a  bridge. 

He  is  next  met  by  sorcerers  who  ask  him  to  abandon 
his  knowledge  of  the  mechanical  arts.  Here  it  is 
plain  that  the  hierophants  or  presiding  priests  of  the 
Mysteries  have  been  changed  into  "  wizards "  by 

1  See  the  writer's  "  Mysteries  of  Britain  "  and  "  Mysteries  of 
Egypt  "  for  an  account  of  the  ancient  systems  of  initiation  on  which 
this  analogy  is  based. 


later  ignorant  editors,  Mexican  or  Spanish.  He  obeys 
them.  Another  "  magician  "  then  insists  upon  his 
drinking  a  draught  which  he  could  give  "  to  none  of 
the  living,"  that  is,  the  cup  of  forgetfulness  employed 
in  all  initiations  at  a  certain  phase.  He  loses  his  senses 
after  the  draught,  precisely  as  did  the  Greek  initiates, 
and  when  he  awakes  "  tears  his  hair,"  perhaps  in  a 
divine  frenzy. 

Next  he  passes  between  a  mountain  of  snow  and  a 
volcano.  This  is  an  analogy  with  the  passage  of  the 
neophyte  through  the  infernal  regions.  Here  his 
attendants  "  die,"  that  is,  the  epopts  and  musicians 
leave  the  neophyte  at  this  particular  point.  The 
memorials  of  his  progress  were  a  court,  in  which  the 
mystical  ball-game  of  tlachtli  was  played,  and  a  cross, 
which  he  made  by  transfixing  one  tree  with  another — 
symbols  of  psychic  stages  traversed  in  the  Mexican 
Mysteries.  Likewise  he  constructed  subterranean 
houses,  which  resemble  those  cells  dug  in  the  ground 
employed  in  Britain  by  the  Druidical  mystics  for 
contemplation,  and  elsewhere  he  balanced  a  great 
rolling  stone,  which  was  also  part  of  the  initiatory 
apparatus  of  the  Druids.  Then  in  his  raft  of  serpents 
he  seated  himself  as  in  a  canoe  to  reach  the  land  of 
Tlapallan,  a  passage  which  renders  it  most  clear  that 
the  whole  myth  of  his  departure  describes  the  initia- 
tory process,  the  voyage  resembling  that  of  the 
neophytes  of  the  British  Mysteries  in  the  "  rite  of  the 
coracle,"  which  seems  to  have  taken  place  in  Cardigan 
Bay,  or  the  Eleusinian  rite  of  "  Mystics  to  the  Sea." 

If  we  tabulate  the  circumstances  of  Quetzalcoatl's 
myth,  we  shall  find  that  they  bear  a  striking  resem- 
blance to  the  known  facts  of  initiation  in  Egypt, 
Greece,  and  Britain.  They  are  : 

The  state  of  longing  for  perfection. 
The  draught  from  the  sacred  cup. 


Spiritual  "  intoxication,"  i.e.  rapt  contemplation. 
Abandonment  of  the  things  of  this  world. 
Recognition  of  arcane  experiences. 
Journey  of  the  soul,  accompanied  by  musicians. 
Crossing  of  the  "  Styx  "  into  the  land  of  the  Dead. 
Abandonment  of  worldly  knowledge  at  the  behest 

of  the  Subterranean  powers. 
The  draught  of  oblivion. 
Divine  frenzy. 

Passage  through  the  infernal  regions. 
Departure  of  accompanying  epopts. 
Passage  through  various  psychic  stages. 
Contemplation  in  subterranean  cell. 
The  rite  of  the  rocking-stone. 
Passage  across  water  to  the  place  of  new  life. 
Regeneration  in  the  place  of  new  life. 
Return  to  the  mundane  sphere  as  an  initiate. 

These  stages  are  not  arranged  in  the  myth  of  Quet- 
zalcoatl  in  the  same  incidence  as  in  the  case  of  the 
Greek  and  British  mysteries,  but  the  majority  of  the 
circumstances  known  to  have  been  connected  with 
initiation  in  Greece  and  Britain  are  here  present.  It 
is  clear,  then,  that  we  must  look  for  a  mystical 
system  connected  with  the  Quetzalcoatl  cult  which 
had  an  almost  precisely  similar  dogma  and  outlook 
to  those  current  in  Britain  and  Greece.  Do  we  actually 
discover  this  to  be  so  ? 

Comparing  first  the  mystical  cosmogony  of  Britain 
with  that  of  Mexico,,  we  find  the  Universe  divided 
into  three  planes.  In  Mexico  we  find  nine  heavens 
arranged  as  different  planes  of  psychic  progression. 
We  find  Arthur  in  British  myth  descending  into 
Annwn,  or  Hades,  to  seek  the  Cauldron  of  Inspiration, 
just  as  Quetzalcoatl  in  Mexico  proceeds  to  Tlapallan 
to  seek  the  Fountain  of  Refreshment.  But  another 
myth  makes  the  Mexican  god  penetrate  to  Hades  or 


Mictlan  to  seek  for  maize,  just  as  Arthur  sought  the 
generating  mistletoe  in  Annwn.  It  is  precisely  in 
British  and  Mexican  myth  that  we  find  the  two  best- 
known  examples  of  the  "  Harrying  of  Hell  "  and  the 
triumph  of  the  gods  of  light  over  those  of  darkness. 
The  "  Popol  Vuh,"  which  provides  the  transatlantic 
evidence  of  this  belief,  is  indeed  a  great  book  of 
American  initiatory  experience. 

Having  thus  satisfied  ourselves  that  the  outlines  of 
British  and  Mexican  mysticism  display  similar  beliefs, 
do  we  find  this  to  be  the  case  as  regards  the  Greek 
and  American  systems  ?  Generally  speaking,  we  can 
at  once  state  this  to  be  so.  Both  were  fundamentally 
based  on  the  primitive  idea  of  vegetable  growth,  out 
of  which  sprang  the  allegory  of  the  rebirth  of  the  soul 
of  men.  Demeter  the  Corn-mother  is  reborn  as  Core, 
precisely  as  the  Mexican  Maize-mother  is  reborn  as 
Cinteotl,  the  son,  and  as  Quetzalcoatl,  the  rain-spirit, 
the  "  finder  "  of  maize,  is  "  reborn  "  in  Tlapallan, 
the  place  of  bright  colours. 

More  particularly,  we  must  ask  ourselves  if  we  can 
trace  any  system  similar  to  that  of  the  philosophy  of 
the  Greek  or  Egyptian  Mysteries  in  Mexico,  where 
the  fragments  only  of  such  a  system  are  apparent. 
The  outward  form  of  the  Greek  and  Egyptian  mystical 
philosophy  was  expressed  chiefly  in  dramatic  rite, 
and  in  the  festivals  of  Mexico  we  observe  circum- 
stances so  obviously  resembling  these  that  we  cannot 
but  believe  in  an  ancient  common  origin.  But  as 
regards  dogma,  we  find  a  similar  belief  in  the  phe- 
nomenon of  rebirth,  as  expressed  in  the  return  of 
Quetzalcoatl,  the  notion  of  a  regenerating  fountain 
of  the  soul,  as  found  also  in  Egypt,  and  the  belief  that 
man  had  fallen  and  must  be  "  reborn."  Mexican 
myth,  like  Greek  and  Egyptian  arcane  myth,  was 
fulfilled  of  this  idea  of  the  fall  of  man  and  the  necessity 
for  his  regeneration.  Xochiquetzal,  the  Mexican 


Venus,  is  said  in  the  "  Codex  Telleriano-Remensis  " 
to  have  been  "  the  first  sinner,"  and  is  represented 
in  a  picture  in  that  MS.  as  "  weeping  for  her  lost 
happiness,"  having  been  driven  from  Paradise  because 
she  had  broken  a  flower.  On  the  occasion  of  her 
festival  the  people  fasted  on  bread  and  water  because 
of  her  mortal  sin,  and  we  have  seen  that  the  same 
myth  held  good  of  Itzpapalotl. 

We  may  then  feel  that  we  are  on  fairly  certain 
ground  if  we  state  positively  that  the  idea  underlying 
the  cult  of  Quetzalcoatl  was  the  regeneration,  the 
rebirth  of  man,  just  as  it  underlay  the  British,  Greek, 
and  Egyptian  mysteries.  That  the  possibility  of 
regeneration  in  Egypt  applied  in  more  ancient  times 
to  the  Pharaoh  alone  I  have  made  plain  enough  in 
"  The  Mysteries  of  Egypt,"  and  that  some  such  belief 
also  obtained  in  Mexico  is  also  evident.  The  soul  of 
the  Pharaoh,  after  death,  was  thought  of  as  winging 
its  flight  to  the  sun-land,  and  we  find  a  Mexican 
legend  which  recounts  how  Montezuma,  the  ill-fated 
Emperor  of  Mexico,  flew  to  Tamoanchan,  the  place 
of  the  setting  sun. 

Another  link  between  the  Hellenic  and  Mexican 
Mysteries  is  that  provided  by  the  cult  of  the  god 
Tlaloc,  which  seems  to  resemble  that  of  the  Cretan 
monster,  the  Minotaur,  who  appears  in  the  Greek 
Mysteries,  with  his  tribute  of  youth.  Children  were 
annually  "  devoured  "  by  the  water-god,  that  is  they 
were  drowned  in  the  Lake  of  Tezcuco,  and  a  specific 
tribute  of  specially  selected  victims  was  paid  to  him, 
while  to  his  Maya  equivalent  virgins  were  sacrificed 
by  drowning  in  the  cenotes  or  great  reservoirs  of  that 
arid  land.  That  Tlaloc  was  developed  from  the  form 
of  such  a  monster  we  can  scarcely  doubt,  having 
regard  to  his  enormous  tusks  and  large  rolling  eye. 
He  was  probably  the  great  serpent  or  dragon  which 
lay  in  the  cavernous  depths  of  the  lake  in  wait  for 


drowning  people,  just  as  the  Minotaur  was  the  fiendish 
bull-man  who  made  the  labyrinth  of  Gnossos  his  den, 
that  is,  he  was  an  earth-monster  (for  the  bull  is  sym- 
bolic of  the  earth  and  the  earthquake),  just  as  Tlaloc 
was  a  water-monster,  and  both  must  be  placated  with 
human  sacrifice. 

Whatever  their  origin,  the  Mysteries  of  Mexico 
display  a  decided  resemblance  to  these  of  the  Old 
World,  and  it  is  therefore  permissible  to  argue  that 
the  system  of  arcane  knowledge  which  they  incul- 
cated was  much  the  same  in  essence  as  that  in  vogue 
in  the  Eastern  Hemisphere,  yet  interpenetrated  by 
novel  and  localized  ideas. 

We  must  then  think  of  the  cult  of  Quetzalcoatl  as 
a  mystery  cult,  having  a  distinct  initiation  ceremony, 
and  that  this  survived  in  the  practices  of  the  Nagualist 
Society  is  also  obvious  enough.  It  appears  to  have 
had  as  its  central  object  the  rebirth  of  man  and  the 
regeneration  of  his  spirit  in  a  sphere  of  Otherwhere, 
whence  he  might  return  to  earth  for  another  existence. 

Of  this  cult  Quetzalcoatl  seems  to  have  been  the 
Dionysus  or  Osiris.  The  rite  of  the  Zapotec  high 
priest  who  took  the  human  form  of  Quetzalcoatl  is 
eloquent  of  the  fact  that  a  certain  measure  of  orgiastic 
frenzy  was  associated  with  his  cult,  and  this  reveals 
the  Bacchic  resemblance.  The  Osirian  association  is 
also  clear  enough.  Quetzalcoatl,  like  Osiris,  fares 
across  the  water  to  seek  regeneration  in  another 
sphere,  to  drink  of  the  fountain  of  youth. 

His  opponent  is  Tezcatlipoca,  in  Central  America 
Hurakan,  the  representative  of  Black  Magic  and  all 
evil,  the  protagonist  of  the  worship  and  ritual  of  the 
lower  cultus.  In  Mexico  we  find,  indeed,  as  perhaps 
nowhere  else  save  in  Persia,  a  distinct  dualism  of  good 
and  evil.  The  amazing  thing  is  that  the  ball-game 
between  the  good  and  evil  deities  which  figures  so 
largely  in  Iranian  myth  as  having  been  played  by 


Ahura  Mazda,  or  Ormuzd,  and  Ahriman,  is  reflected 
in  the  Mexican  myth  given  by  Mendieta,  which  tells 
how  Tezcatlipoca  let  himself  down  from  the  sky  by 
means  of  a  spider's  web,  and  coming  to  Tollan, 
engaged  in  a  game  of  tlachtli,  or  ball,  with  Quetzal- 
coatl,  in  the  midst  of  which  he  transformed  himself 
into  a  jaguar,  and  chased  Quetzalcoatl  to  Tlapallan. 
The  olli,  or  ball,  with  which  they  played  is  the  symbol 
of  light  and  darkness,  as  its  bright  and  shaded  sides 
show.  It  was  the  symbol  of  the  god  Xolotl. 

One  of  the  hymns  or  songs  given  in  the  Sahagun 
MS.  says  of  Xolotl : 

"  Old  Xolotl  plays  ball,  plays  ball 
On  the  magic  playing -ground." 

The  Mexican  game  of  tlachtli  symbolized  the  move- 
ments of  the  moon  (but  more  probably  of  both  sun 
and  moon).  This,  perhaps  the  favourite  Mexican 
amusement,  was  a  ball-game,  played  with  a  rubber 
ball  by  two  persons  one  at  each  end  of  a  T-shaped 
court,  which  in  the  manuscripts  is  sometimes  repre- 
sented as  painted  in  dark  and  light  colours,  or  in  four 
variegated  hues.  In  several  of  the  manuscripts  Xolotl 
is  depicted  striving  at  this  game  against  other  gods. 
For  example,  in  the  "  Codex  Mendoza  "  we  see  him 
playing  with  the  moon-god,  and  can  recognize  him 
by  the  sign  ollin  which  accompanies  him,  and  by  the 
gouged-out  eye  in  which  that  symbol  ends.  Seler 
thinks  "  that  the  root  of  the  name  olin  suggested  to 
the  Mexicans  the  motion  of  the  rubber  ball  olli  and, 
as  a  consequence,  ball-playing."  It  seems  to  me  to 
have  represented  both  light  and  darkness,  as  is  wit- 
nessed by  its  colours.  Xolotl  is,  indeed,  the  darkness 
that  accompanies  light.  Hence  he  is  "  the  twin,"  or 
shadow,  hence  he  travels  with  the  sun  and  the  moon, 
with  one  or  other  of  which  he  "  plays  ball,"  overcom- 
ing them  or  losing  to  them.  He  is  the  god  of  eclipse, 


and  naturally  a  dog,  the  animal  of  eclipse.  Peruvians, 
Tupis,  Creeks,  Iroquois,  Algonquins,  and  Eskimos 
believed  the  dog  to  be  so,  thrashing  dogs  during  the 
phenomenon,  a  practice  explained  by  saying  that  the 
big  dog  was  swallowing  the  sun,  and  that  by  whipping 
the  little  ones  they  would  make  him  desist.  The  dog 
is  the  animal  of  the  dead,  and  therefore  of  the  Place 
of  Shadows.  Thus  also  Xolotl  is  a  monster,  the  sun- 
swallowing  monster,  like  the  Hindu  Rahu,  who  chases 
the  sun  and  moon.  As  a  shadow  he  is  "  the  double  " 
of  everything.  The  axoloil,  a  marine  animal  found  in 
Mexico,  was  confounded  with  his  name  because  of  its 
monstrous  appearance,  and  he  was  classed  along  with 
Quetzalcoatl  merely  because  that  god's  name  bore  the 
element  coatl,  which  may  be  translated  either  "  twin  " 
or  "  snake."  Lastly,  as  he  was  "  variable  as  the 
shade,"  so  were  the  fortunes  of  the  game  over  which 
he  presided. 

At  the  same  time  he  seems  to  me  to  have  affinities 
with  the  Zapotec  and  Maya  lightning-dog  peche-xolo 
and  may  represent  the  lightning  which  descends  from 
the  thunder-cloud,  the  flash,  the  reflection  of  which 
arouses  in  many  primitive  people  the  belief  that  the 
lightning  is  "  double,"  and  leads  them  to  suppose  a 
connection  between  the  lightning  and  twins,  or  other 
phenomena  of  a  twofold  kind.  As  the  dog,  too,  he 
has  a  connection  with  Hades,  and,  said  myth,  was 
despatched  thence  for  the  bones  from  which  man  was 

He  is  also  a  travelling  god,  for  the  shadows  cast  by 
the  clouds  seem  to  travel  quickly  over  plain  and 
mountain.  As  the  monstrous  dwarf,  too,  he  sym- 
bolized the  palace-slave,  the  deformed  jester  who 
catered  for  the  amusement  of  the  great,  and  this 
probably  accounts  for  the  symbol  of  the  white  hand 
outspread  on  his  face,  which  he  has  in  common  with 
Xochipilli  and  the  other  gods  of  pleasure.  He  bears 


a  suspicious  resemblance  to  the  mandrake  spirits  of 
Europe  and  Asia,  both  as  regards  his  duality,  his  loud 
lamentation  when  as  a  double-rooted  plant  he  was 
discovered  and  pulled  up  by  the  roots,  and  his  symbol, 
which  may  be  a  reminiscence  of  the  mandrake. 

Now  all  this  seems  to  me  to  throw  light  on  the 
dualistic  character  of  Mexican  arcane  thought. 
Xolotl  is  the  "  twin  "  of  Quetzalcoatl,  that  is,  he  is 
Quetzalcoatl  in  another  guise,  as  the  ball-player,  but 
he  wears  nearly  all  Quetzalcoatl's  symbols  and  his 
dress,  to  say  nothing  of  his  long  beard.  He  is  also  the 
divine  dog  of  the  Mexican  Mysteries,  their  Anubis,  so 
to  speak,  and  in  most  of  the  Codices  he  is  seen  taking 
on  a  canine  appearance.  He  is  also  one  of  the 
"  dwarfish  servants  "  of  the  god. 

Quetzalcoatl,  the  alien  and  "  civilized "  god  or 
magician,  the  protagonist  of  white  magic  and  the 
civilizing  mysteries,  found  Mexico  unready  for  him. 
He  was  "  driven  out,"  and  his  cultus  remained  on 
sufferance  and  as  an  aristocratic  and  priestly  one  only. 
Tezcatlipoca,  the  native  god  of  obsidian,  and  the 
Ahriman  of  Mexico,  presided  over  a  ritual  not  unlike 
that  of  Siva  in  India.  Mexico  groaned  beneath  his 
bloodstained  rites.  Small  wonder  that  he  came  to  be 
known  by  names  so  awful  as  "  The  Hungry  Chief  " 
and  "  The  Enemy. ;)  Montezuma  seems  to  have  felt 
the  justice  of  Cortes's  rebuke  that  his  gods  were 
devils,  and  his  acceptance  of  the  Christian  faith 
appears  to  have  been  sincere  enough  and  to  have 
come  to  him  as  a  great  relief  in  the  end. 

But,  like  that  of  Quetzalcoatl,  the  cult  of  Tezcat- 
lipoca had  its  own  mysteries,  degraded  as  they  were. 
These  were  the  Mexican  equivalents  of  the  Black 
Mass.  A  graceful  young  man  was  selected  from 
among  the  war  captives  and  was  during  a  whole  year 
permitted  to  lead  a  life  of  unrestricted  pleasure.  He 
was  clad  in  the  finest  robes,  he  ate  and  drank  of  the 


best,  he  was  hailed  by  the  populace  as  a  great  lord,  he 
was  given  a  harem  of  beautiful  women,  but  at  the  end 
of  the  year  he  must  perish. 

It  is  the  story  of  Faust  in  a  Mexican  setting,  the 
legend  of  the  man  who  has  sold  himself  to  the  Devil. 
At  the  end  of  the  year  he  was  immolated  by  having 
his  heart  (soul)  torn  out  and  cast  before  the  idol  of 

For  just  as  the  legend  of  Faust  reflects  the  tradi- 
tional remembrance  of  a  rite  in  which  a  man  was 
sacrificed  to  a  demon,  the  story  of  the  Mexican  victim 
of  Tezcatlipoca  affords  us  the  description  of  that  rite 
itself.  In  the  Faust  legend  the  person  "  sells  "  himself 
to  the  Devil ;  in  the  Mexican  rite  he  is  "  selected." 
And  that  Tezcatlipoca  was  sufficiently  demonic, 
we  know  from  the  old  Spanish  chroniclers.  "  The 
Mexicans,"  says  Sahagun,  "  believed  that  he  was 
invisible  and  was  able  to  penetrate  into  all  places, 
heaven,  earth,  and  hell  .  .  .  and  that  he  wandered 
over  the  earth  stirring  up  strife  and  war  and  setting 
men  against  one  another."  He  also  remarks  that, 
"  he  was  a  true  giver  of  prosperity,  and  extremely 
capricious."  Is  this  not  Mephistopheles  in  propria 
persona  ?  And,  to  complete  the  picture,  Tezcatlipoca 
is  a  friend  of  witches  and,  like  the  German  demon, 
and  the  fiends  in  the  Welsh-  legends  of  the  Grail,  is 

Faust,  under  the  guidance  of  Mephistopheles, 
visited  "the  Mothers,"  the  Chonthian  deities  of 
growth,  who  dwelt  beneath  the  earth,  and  who  were 
represented  in  the  Mysteries  of  ancient  Eleusis. 
At  the  Teotleco,  a  movable  feast  sacred  to  Tezcat- 
lipoca, the  footprint  of  the  god  was  assiduously  looked 
for  by  the  priests  in  a  heap  of  maize.  When  it  ap- 
peared, the  chief  attendant  cried,  "  The  master  has 
arrived."  On  the  following  day  a  huge  fire  was 
prepared  and  captives  were  burnt  alive.  Young  men 


disguised  as  demons  danced  round  it,  hurling  the 
unhappy  victims  into  the  flames.  Is  this  not  the 
myth  of  Satan  and  hell-fire  dramatized  ? 

Tezcatlipoca  in  his  cock  shape  (we  will  recall  that 
Mephistopheles  wore  a  cock's  feather)  was  the  fiend 
who  deceived  the  first  woman.  But  not  only  did  he 
deceive  Hueytonantzin,  "  our  great  mother,"  but, 
with  the  help  of  other  demons  he  slew  her,  "  founding 
with  her  the  institution  of  human  sacrifice,"  offering 
up  her  heart  to  the  sun. 

In  many  ancient  Mexican  myths  we  find  both  Tez- 
catlipoca and  Quetzalcoatl  posing  as  creators,  aiding 
each  other  in  framing  the  world.  Both  are  said  to  be 
the  sons  of  Tonacatecutli  and  Tonacaciuatl,  "  who 
had  existed  from  the  beginning,"  both  in  turn  became 
(or  ruled)  the  sun  for  an  "  age."  But  Tezcatlipoca 
fell  from  heaven,  or  Tamoanchan,  like  other  gods,  he 
transgressed  by  plucking  the  roses  and  branches  of 
that  delectable  place.  This  has,  of  course,  an  arcane 
significance,  and  implies  that  these  deities  broke  the 
sex-taboo  placed  upon  the  gods,  for  it  is  distinctly 
stated  that  the  Mexican  deities,  although  many  of 
them  had  female  counterparts,  were  not  united  in 
marriage,  nor  had  they  any  marital  relations  whatever. 

Tezcatlipoca  and  his  erring  brothers  and  sisters,  the 
Tzitzimime,  were  therefore  like  Milton's  angels,  cast 
out  of  heaven,  some  into  "  hell,"  others  upon  the 
earth,  to  become  the  adversaries  of  mankind,  and  as 
I  have  already  said,  Tezcatlipoca's  minor  names, 
Yaotl,  "  Enemy,"  and  Yaomauitl, "  Dreaded  Enemy," 
make  his  character  and  position  clear  in  this  respect. 
We  can  trace,  then,  the  process  by  which  the  barbarous 
obsidian  cult  of  the  Nahua  tribes  came  to  be  regarded 
by  the  more  enlightened  Mexicans  as  definitely  evil, 
whilst  the  civilized  cultus  of  Quetzalcoatl  was  identi- 
fied with  all  that  was  good  and  delectable.  Not 
that  the  faith  of  Tezcatlipoca  was  altogether  bad,  for 


it  certainly  possessed  elements  of  goodness  and  pro- 
gress, but  its  association  with  human  sacrifice  gradu- 
ally occluded  most  of  these,  and  in  the  end  the  worship 
of  the  god  substituted  terror  for  conscience.  To  sin 
against  Tezcatlipoca  was  only  to  offend,  and  caused 
him  no  sorrow  but  vindictive  anger,  which  was 
speedily  assuaged  by  horrible  punishment.1 

To  be  a  priest  of  Tezcatlipoca  was  to  be  a  black 
magician  in  every  sense  of  the  word,  an  associate  of 
witches,  a  shape-shifter,  an  invoker  of  demons.  The 
priesthood  of  Quetzalcoatl,  on  the  other  hand,  was 
philosophical  and  spiritual  in  its  outlook.  We  see 
here,  clearly,  then,  not  so  much  a  religious  state  and 
condition  in  Mexico,  but  one  in  which  an  opinion 
much  more  purely  magical  had  developed.  Mexican 
"  religion,"  in  a  word,  was  not  so  much  the  worship 
of  a  pantheon  of  deities  mainly  beneficent,  with  a 
corresponding  fear  and  hatred  of  a  comparatively 
small  number  of  evil  deities,  as  in  Greece  or  Egypt, 
or  Babylon,  nor  was  it  even  an  acknowledgment  of 
"  powers  "  of  rather  indefinite  character,  as  among 
the  Teutons  or  the  early  Celts.  It  was  a  well-defined 
national  or  tribal  recognition  of  a  good  pantheon  in 
opposition  to  an  evil  one,  in  which  the  ignorant 
accepted  perforce  the  rule  of  the  darker  deities  and 
the  enlightened  the  path  of  the  higher  gods,  although 
even  these  were  compelled  by  popular  opinion  and  for 
political  reasons  to  "  bow  the  knee  to  Mammon,"  and 
to  participate  in  the  horrid  orgies  of  supernatural 
beings  of  a  type  almost  wholly  debased  lest  they 
arouse  popular  clamour  through  their  neglect  of 
forces  which,  it  was  believed,  might  withhold  suste- 
nance and  vindictively  bring  the  whole  human  race 

1  The  myths  of  the  Nootka  Sound  Indians,  however,  seem  to 
point  to  an  early  version  of  this  dualism.  In  them  the  gods  Quautz 
and  Matlox  are  represented  as  the  good  and  bad  principles  and 
seem  to  me  the  prototypes  of  Quetzalcoatl  and  Mictlan. 


to  irretrievable  ruin  were  they  not  periodically  pla- 
cated with  sacrifices  of  the  most  revolting  character. 

Such  a  possible  condition  early  European  Christi- 
anity dreaded  and  foresaw  did  it  not  deal  faithfully 
and  manfully  with  the  paganism  it  outrooted.  Yet  it 
was  even  compelled  to  make  certain  terms  with  that 
paganism,  accepting  by  the  famous  bull  of  Pope 
Gregory  some  of  the  less  offensive  rites  and  customs  of 
the  lower  faiths  it  had  displaced.  The  colonial  priest- 
hood of  Spain  has  frequently  been  blamed  for  the 
ferocity  of  the  measures  it  adopted  in  Mexico  and 
Central  America.  But  if  we  cannot  excuse  its  de- 
struction of  manuscripts  and  of  some  of  the  more 
innocent  monuments,  we  can  but  applaud  the  forth- 
right valour  with  which  it  extirpated  the  abominable 
demonism  of  old  Mexico  and  cast  down  its  sanguinary 
high  places.  In  time  it  came  to  recognize  that  the 
wretched  peoples  to  whom  it  had  been  sent  to  minister 
were,  for  the  most  part,  only  too  willing  to  believe  in 
and  accept  its  comparatively  mild  tenets,  as  the  noble 
and  Christ-like  Las  Casas  discovered  and  demon- 
strated to  the  confusion  of  his  more  fanatical  country- 
men. Yet  even  he,  a  second  Quetzalcoatl,  might 
not  altogether  destroy  the  awful  dread  which  genera- 
tions of  besotted  slavery  to  the  doomful  spirits  of  evil 
which  had  obsessed  them  had  bred  in  the  terrified 
folk,  caught  in  a  maze  of  inextricable  ritual  and  beset 
by  a  thousand  menacing  taboos. 

Quetzalcoatl  fell  with  Tezcatlipoca,  the  good  that 
might  not  prevail,  along  with  the  evil  that  had  pre- 
vailed too  long.  But  even  his  overthrowers  recognized 
the  essential  divinity  of  his  serene  and  blameless 
cult,  and  came  to  identify  him  with  St.  Thomas,  who, 
they  thought,  must  have  arrived  in  America,  carrying 
with  him  the  Cross  and  the  rite  of  Baptism. 

Yet  who  will  fail  to  admire  the  noble  effort  of  the 
priesthood  of  Quetzalcoatl,  surrounded  as  it  was  by  the 


forces  of  death  and  hell  ?  When  the  good  finds  itself 
in  opposition  to  evil  overwhelming  and  inveterate, 
what  may  it  accomplish  save  by  fighting  wrong  with 
its  own  weapons,  by  opposing  magic  with  magic,  as 
did  St.  Columba,  St.  Patrick,  and  even  the  Founder  of 
Christianity  Himself,  by  wielding  the  divine  science, 
the  true  Magic,  as  a  weapon  to  destroy  the  false  ? 

This  did  Topiltzin  Quetzalcoatl,  the  St.  Columba  of 
Mexico.  In  Guatemala  and  Yucatan  he  seems  to 
have  succeeded.  In  Mexico  he  might  well  have  sung 
to  his  Father  the  Sun  as  did  the  Hindu  priest  to  Agni, 
the  deity  of  the  sacrificial  fire,  as  we  find  in  "  The 
Rigveda  "— 

"  Bright-gleaming  warrior  lord, 

Protect  us  in  the  fray 
From  this  dense  devilish  heathen  horde 
And  all  that  scheme  to  slay. 
*  *  *  * 

A  welcome  light  to  loyal  hearts, 

But  terrible  to  face 
For  those  that  deal  in  magic  arts, 

And  all  the  Atri  race."1 


For  what  Quetzalcoatl  essayed  was  the  conquest  of 
demons  as  we  find  it  outlined  in  the  Brahmanas  where 
the  confusion  of  the  Asuras  is  alluded  to. 

14  The  Asuras  performed  at  the  sacrifice  all  that  the 
Devas  performed.  The  Asuras  became  thus  of  equal 
power  with  the  Devas,  and  did  not  yield  to  them. 
Thereupon  the  Devas  had  a  vision  of  the  '  silent 
praise.'  The  Asuras,  not  knowing  it,  did  not  perform 
the  4  silent  praise.'  This  '  silent  praise  '  is  the  latent 
essence  of  the  hymns.  Till  then  whatever  weapons  the 
Devas  used  against  the  Asuras,  the  Asuras  used  in 
revenge  against  them ;  but  when  the  Devas  had  a 
vision  of  the  '  silent  praise,'  and  raised  it  as  a  weapon, 
the  Asuras  did  not  comprehend  it.  With  it  the  Devas 

1  Professor  E.  Vernon  Arnold's  translation.  See  "  The  Kigveda." 
(Popular  studies  in  Mythology,  Romance,  and  Folklore.) 


aimed  a  blow  at  the  Asuras,  and  defeated  them,  for 
they  had  no  comprehension  of  this  weapon.  There- 
upon the  Devas  became  masters  of  the  Asuras.  He 
who  has  such  a  knowledge  becomes  master  of  his 
enemy,  adversary,  and  hater." 

"  The  silent  praise  "  — contemplation  of  the  divine. 
In  that,  in  piety  and  right-thinking,  reside  the  true, 
the  real  magic,  which  is  even  proof  against  the  horrors 
of  the  infernal  world.  Virtue,  humble  piety,  simple 
goodness  constitute  within  themselves  a  magic  of 
such  invincible  potency  that  all  the  powers  of  Hell, 
rushing  to  their  overthrow,  avail  no  more  than  the 
boiling  surf  against  the  adamant  of  the  sea-cliff. 

A  great  and  salutary  lesson  is  to  be  learned  from 
Old  Mexico,  for  our  world  is  still  demon-haunted,  the 
powers  and  principalities  of  Black  Magic  beset  it,  as 
never  before.  We  imagine,  perchance,  that  which 
we  know  as  civilization  may  save  us  from  evil,  that 
mere  material  knowledge  may  serve  as  armour  of  proof 
against  embattled  evil.  Futile  hope,  for  earthly 
knowledge  is  not  of  the  nature  of  true  enlightenment, 
nor  has  it  any  guarding  sanction. 

We  cannot  fall  to  such  depths  as  did  Old  Mexico, 
we  believe.  Yet,  relatively,  according  to  the  light 
vouchsafed  us,  have  we  already  done  so. 

Evil  is  tireless.  All  evil  works  through  a  magic  of 
its  own,  a  black  magic  which  expresses  itself  in  forms 
so  numerous  and  so  protean  that  it  is  frequently 
undistinguishable  from  goodness  and  beauty.  The 
priests  of  Tezcatlipoca  assured  the  Aztecs  that  unless 
they  rendered  holocausts  and  human  blood-sacrifices 
to  the  gods  these  would  withhold  sustenance  from 
them  and  they  would  perish.  In  a  like  manner  does 
the  priesthood  of  the  modern  Mammon  terrify  the 
people  by  the  doctrine  that  they  must  indulge  not  in 
legitimate  competition,  which  is  the  soul  of  prosperity, 
but  in  base  commercial  strife  in  which  the  most  sordid 


expedients  are  resorted  to,  otherwise  they  will 

In  the  bloodstained  shrines  of  Tezcatlipoca  fantastic 
rites  were  enacted  which  men  believed  essential  to 
human  continuance  and  sustenance.  "  These  were 
the  masks  which  Tezcatlipoca  assumed,"  says  the  old 
chronicler,  "  to  play  with  the  people,  to  have  his 
sport  with  the  people."  In  such  wise  do  the  false 
gods  of  our  age  tantalize  and  torment  humanity. 

Tezcatlipoca,  Asmodeus,  Belial,  Satan,  by  whatever 
name  you  choose  to  call  him,  is  the  same  in  all  times 
and  in  all  lands.  That  Satan  had  empery  in  Old 
Mexico  who  can  doubt  ?  His  personality  is  so  obvious 
in  the  guise  of  Tezcatlipoea  that  it  is  not  to  be  gain- 
said. The  missionary  priests  of  Spain  only  too 
shrewdly  realized  this. 

The  worship  and  philosophy  of  Tezcatlipoca  are 
scarcely  to  be  distinguished  from  diabolism  or  devil- 
worship.  He  is  the  great  black  man  of  the  witch-cult, 
who  presides  at  their  ceremonies,  the  demon  to  whom 
the  profane  render  praise  and  sacrifice  in  blood- 
stained sanctuaries,  the  Master  of  Sin,  the  Terrifier 
and  Lord  of  Phantoms,  the  patron  of  thieves,  and 
with  his  twin  brother  Uitzilopochtli,  the  fosterer  of 
war  and  strife.  The  military  side  of  Aztec  life  was 
associated  with  immorality,  the  young  women  as  yet 
unmarried  being  companions  of  the  youthful  warriors. 
The  entire  manifestation  and  content  of  the  cult  of 
Tezcatlipoca  and  his  brother  were  evil  unalloyed — 
evil,  which,  notwithstanding  its  might,  seems  to  have 
found  as  worthy  antagonists  in  darkest  Mexico  as  in 
more  fortunate  Europe. 


Acosta,  on  magical  customs  in 
Mexico,  73 

Acxitl,  Prince  of  the  Toltecs,  his 
legend,  26-35 

Aguilar,  Ordonez  de,  218 

Ah-puch,  a  god,  200 

"  Alphabet  "  of  gods,  198  ff. 

Amulets,  103-110 

Animals,  mythical,  in  Mexico, 

Arcane  philosophy  of  the 
Mexicans  and  Maya,  261  ff. 

Arcanum,  Grand,  of  the  Mexican 
priesthood,  66 

Astrology,  144  ff.  ;  symbols  of, 
145-154;  gods  of,  147-150; 
connection  between  Aztec  and 
stellar,  154-5 ;  origins  of, 
262  ff. 

Augury,  by  bird-habit,  97-98  ; 
by  dreams,  98-99 ;  among 
the  Maya,  226 

Azcapozalco,  41 

Aztecs,  the,  35  ff.  ;  their  hiero- 
glyphic writing,  38-39  ;  their 
civilisation,  38  ;  mode  of  life, 
39  ;  architecture  and  ruins, 
40-41  ;  History  of,  41-43  ; 
Religion  of,  44  ff . 

Babel,  Tower  of,  219 

Bacabs,    or    gods    of    the    four 

quarters,  206-7  ;   224 
Banshee  in  Mexico,  119 
Bat,  the  demon,  127,  247 
Battle  of  Flowers,  143 
Bautista,  on  Mexican  magicians, 

Beast -guardian  in  "Nagualist  cult, 

159-161  ;   story  of  the,  163  ff. 
Birds,  fabulous,  127-128 
Blood,  sacrificial,  as  rain,  46 
Books,  magical,   172,  ff.  ;    how 

employed,  181  ;   of  the  Maya, 

236  ff. 

Brasseur    de     Bourbourg,     the 

Abbe,  236 
Broom  of  the  Mexican  witches, 

132;   140 
Burgoa,  on  a  case  of  heresy,  71 

Cabrakan,  a  giant,  243 
Caliban,  derivation  of  the  name, 

Calmecac,    or    college    of    the 

priests,  96 
Camazotz,  the  demon  bat,  127, 


Chac,  a  rain-god,  207 
Charms,  103-110 
Chichimec  tribe,  33 
Chicomecohuatl,     the    goddess, 


Chilan,  a  caste  of  priests,  220  ff. 
Chilan   Balam,    Books  of,  197; 


Christianity  and  paganism,  281 
Cinteotl,  a  god,  symbol  of,  108 
Cipactli,  or  earth-beast,  45 
Ciuacoatl,  a  goddess,  58 
Ciuateteo,  or  witches,  58  ;  129  ff. 
Coatlicue,  the    goddess,   45-46; 


Cocomes,  a  Maya  dynasty,  193  ff. 
Codex  Borgia,  174-176 
Codex     Fejervary  -Mayer,     173, 

177  ff. 

Codex  Persianus,  214-5 
Cosmogony,  mystical,  of  Mexico, 

271  ff. 
Creation-myth    of    the    Quiche, 

241  ff. 
Cuitlapanton,  a  spirit,  119 

Day-signs,  of  the  Calendar, 
Mexican,  144  ff.  ;  Maya,  223 

Death,  amulets  used  at,  108- 

Death's  head,  119-120 

Death-masks,  103-104 



Demonology  of  Mexico,  116  ff.  ; 

of  the  Maya,  227 
Devil-worship  in  Mexico,  70 
Divination,       Mexican,      75-77, 

96-99  ;  of  the  Maya,  228  ff. 
Dog,  sacrificed  at  death,  109 
Dreams,     divination     by,     99  ; 

story  of  Princess  Papantzin, 

99  ff. 
Dresden  Codex,   103,   197,  200, 

206,  208 
Druidism,  did  it  reach  America  ? 

Dualism,      212-213,      232     ff.  ; 

268  ff. 
Dwarfs  of  Mexico,  121-122 

Ek  chuah,  "the  Black  god," 
206,  214 

Fairies,  American,  122-125 
Faust,  the  legend  of,  278 
Feathered  snake,  125 
Festivals,    their  magical    char- 
acter, 77-78 
Frog-god,  the  Maya,  206 

Giants  of  Mexico,  120  ff. 

Gods,  Mexican,  44  ff . 

Gods,  Maya,  "  alphabet  "  of, 
198  ;  represented  on  monu- 
ments, 209  ;  collation  of,  212  ; 
literary  sources  concerning, 
212  ;  the  lesser,  214-215  ; 
identification  of,  215 

Guatemala,  Fairy  tales  of,  123— 

Gukumatz,  231 

Haebler,  Dr.,  on  Maya  religion, 
231  ff. 

Heavenly  bodies  in  Maya  pan- 
theon, 213 

Heresy,  magical,  in  Mexico, 

Horoscopes,  casting  of,  222 

Huemac,  King  of  the  Toltecs  : 
his  legend,  26-35 ;  story  of 
the  casket  of,  85  ff . 

Hunabku,  231 

Hun-Ahpu,  a  mythical  hero, 
242  ff. 

Hurakan,  a  god,  248 

Initiation  in  Mexico,  269  ff. 

Ink,  unction  with,  76 
Interpretative  Codices,  174 
Itzaes,  a  Maya  sept,  194 
Itzamal,  the  oracle  of,  221-222 
Itzamna,    a    Maya    god,     213- 

214,  215,  222,  231  ff. 
Itzpapalotl,  a  goddess,    61-63 ; 

connection  with  Obsidian  cult, 

82;  117 

Kab-ul,  a  form  of  Itzamna,  222, 

232,  261  ff. 
Kakchiquels,  195 
Kinich  Ahau,  the  Maya  sun -god, 

Kukulkan,    193,    200-202,   205, 

220,  231,  241 
Kwakiootl  Indians,  rites  of,  141 

Leon,   Nicolas  de,   on  Mexican 

magicians,  67 
Libro    del    Judeo,    a    medical 

treatise,  260 

Magic,  Mexican,  true  tendency 
of,  64  ;  higher  aspects  of,  65, 
67  ff.  ;  feats  of,  69  ;  among 
the  Maya  priesthood,  227  ff. 

Magical  experiments,  hours  dedi- 
cated to,  68-69;  73-78; 
localities,  110  ff. ;  instruments, 
114-115;  books,  172  ff,  236 

Magical  significance  of  Maya 
time-periods,  224  ff. 

Magicians,  Mexican,  67  ff  ;  story 
of  a,  85  ff  ;  apparatus  of,  114- 
115  ;  books  of  the,  172  ff.  ;  of 
the  Maya,  220 

Maize,  divination  by,  75-76 ; 
superstition  regarding  its 
cooking,  85 

Maize-god,  210-211 

Maya,  the,  18  ;  connection  with 
Toltecs,  22,  23,  25,  183  ; 
cities,  185  ;  history,  185-6  ; 
192  ff  ;  writing,  186-7  ; 
arithmetical  system,  187-188  ; 
astronomy,  188  ;  architecture, 
188  ;  religion  of  the,  197,  231 
ff.  ;  magic  of,  218  ff.  ;  astro- 
logy of  the,  222  ff .  ;  sacrifice 
among  the,  230 ;  festivals, 
231  ;  arcane  knowledge  of, 
230  ;  gods  of  the,  197  ff. 



Mexico,  Races  of,  18-20 ; 
History  of  the,  19-43  ;  Maya 
source  of  its  culture,  23  ; 
Religion  of,  44  ff .  ;  Magic  of, 
67  ff. 

Mexico -Tenochtitlan,  Aztec  city 
of,  36-38 

Mictlantecutli,  Lord  of  Hell,  63 

Mitla,  or  Mictlan,  its  subter- 
ranean passages,  110  ff. 

Montezuma  I.,  42 

Montezuma  II.,  43;  99  ff. 

Months  of  the  Maya  year,  their 
significance,  224  ff. 

Monuments,  gods  represented 
on  the  Maya,  209 

Mysteries,  the,  in  Mexico,  269 

Nagualism,      70-71  ;      159    ff.  ; 

beast-guardian    in,    159-161  ; 

women  in,   161  ;    methods  of 

Nagualists,     161-163  ;     story 

of  the,  163  ff. 
Nahua  race,  18-20 
Naulli,    or   Mexican   magicians, 

67     ff.  ;      higher     castes     of, 

69-70,  71  ;    as  vampires,  70  ; 

story  of  a,  85  ff .  ;    apparatus 

of,  114-115 
Nezahualcoyotl,    King   of   Tex- 

cuco,  268 
Nunez  de  la  Vega,  218 

Obsidian  cult,  78-84  ;    its  gods, 

79  ;    its  trading  associations, 

80  ;    its  magical  propensities, 
83  ;  as  symbol  of  life,  84 

Ochpaniztli,  festival  of  Tlazol- 

teotl,  135  ff. 

Ointments,  magical,  74-75 
Old  Black  god,  205 
Ololuchqui,    a    magical    potion, 

Oracles,  divination  by,  96  ;    of 

the  Maya,  221-222,  229 

Palenque,     city     of,     190-191, 

Papantzin,   the   Princess,   story 

of,  99  ff. 

Pek,  the  lightning. dog,  126-127 
Petum  (tobacco)  as  a  magical 

element,  74-75 
Peyotl,    a    magical   intoxicant, 


Plants,  astrological  significance 
of,  155-158 

"  Popol  Vuh,"  the,  236-255;  its 
text,  237-238  ;  its  language, 
239  ;  its  divisions,  240  ; 
Book  I.,  240-244  ;  Book  II., 
244-248;  Book  III.,  248- 
250  ;  genuine  character  of  the, 
250  ff.;  Cosmogony  of,  251- 
252  ;  mythology  of,  252-253 

Prophecy,  220-221,  256-257 

Quetzalcoatl,  20,  44,  47  ;  his 
myths,  48-50  ;  as  inventor  of 
the  tonalamatl,  or  Book  of 
Fate,  49  ;  his  Maya  names, 
50 ;  amulets  of,  107-108  ; 
was  he  a  Druid  priest  ?  142- 
143  ;  as  planet  Venus,  155 ; 
218-220,  241,  265  ff.,  269  ff.  ; 
his  mystery  cult,  274,  277  ff. 

Quiches,  195 

Races  of  Mexico,  18-20 
Rain-cult  of  Mexico,  45 
"  Rigveda,  The,"  quotation  from, 

Sacrifices,  human,  46,  58 
Schellhas,  Dr.  Paul,  his  system, 

198  ff. 
Scrying    stones    of    the    Maya, 

228  ff. 

Shamanism,  Siberian,  136-140 
Spaniards,  dreams  and  prophecy 

of  the  coming  of  the,  99  ff. 
Spinden,  Dr.  H.  J.,  199 
Staves,  magical,  104-105;  107 
Superstitions  of   the   Mexicans, 

84-85 ;  of  the  Maya,  227 
Sympathetic  magic,  78 

Talismans,  flint,  105-106 

Tecpanecs,  42 

"  Tempest,  The,"  Shapespeare's 

in  American  Fairy  lore,  124 
Teo-amoxtli,  or  "  divine  book," 

Teopatli,  a  magical  medicament, 


Teotihuacan,  ruins  of,  40 
Teotl,  the  Aztec  "  First  Cause," 

Tepeilhuitl,  festival  of,  78 


Tepitoton,  or  diminutive  deities, 

Tezcatlipoca,  the  god,  aa 
magician,  51-52  ;  his  myth, 
52-54  ;  in  the  Obsidian  cult, 
79,  83;  118-119;  as  witch- 
master,  131  ;  other  references 
to,  208  ;  267,  274  ff.,  277  ff . 

Tezcucans,  41,  42 

Tezcuco,  Lake  of,  41  ;  city  of, 

Tlachtli,  a  ball-game,  275  ff. 

Tlacopan,  42 

Tlazolteotl,  queen  of  the  Mexican 
witches,  58  ;  130  ;  132  ; 
character  of,  135  ;  festival 
of,  135  ff. 

Tohil,  a  god,  249 

Tollan,  capital  of  the  Toltecs, 
20  ;  Charnay's  excavation  of, 
21;  foundation  of ,  24  ;  legend 
of,  26-35  ;  ruins  of,  41 

Toltecs,  origin  and  history,  19- 
35  ;  migrations,  19  ;  Brinton 
on,  21  ;  legend  of,  26-35  ;  as 
people  of  Quetzalcoatl,  49 ; 
myths  of  the,  52  ff.;  59-60 

Tonacaciuatl  as  goddess  of 
Obsidian  cult,  82 

Tonalamatl,  or  Book  of  Fate  : 
its  invention,  49-50;  66; 
144-154;  signs  of  the,  145- 
154;  gods  of  the,  147-150; 
used  in  magic,  181,  265  ff.  ; 
of  the  Maya,  222  ff.  ;  233 

Torquemada,  his  description  of 
Mitla,  110 

Total,  story  of,  85  ff . 

Tzitzimime,  or  demons,  116-117 

Uactlibird,  118 
Uayayeb,  206-207,  224 
Uitzilopochtli,  god  of  War,  42  ; 
his  character,  .54  ff . ;    myths, 

55-57 ;  appearance,  57 ;  human 
sacrifices  to,  88 

Valum  Chivim,  the  settlement  of 

Votan,  218 
Venus,  the  planet,  its  astrological 

significance,    155-157  ;     208  ; 

225  ff.,  234 

Visions,  how  induced,  99 
Votan,  218-220,  232 
Vukub-Cakix,  a  giant,  his  myths, 

242  ff. 

Witchcraft  in  Mexico,  129  ff.  ; 
its  resemblance  to  European, 
134-135  ;  the  mummy  and, 
141-142  ;  origin  of,  142 

Witches,  Mexican,  58;  129  ff.  ; 
their  customs,  131  ;  costume 
of,  131-132  ;  their  meeting- 
places,  133  ;  college  of  in 
Huaxtec  region,  133-134  ; 
dancing  of,  136  ;  Azilian 
origin  of  their  system,  140- 

"  Wizards'  Manual,"  177  ff. 

Xalaquia,    the   festival   of   the, 


Xamanek,  a  god,  202,  215 
Xbalanque,    a    mythical    hero, 

242  ff . 

Xelhua,  a  giant,  120-121 
Xibalba,  the  Underworld,  244  ff ., 

253  ff. 

Xipe,  god  of  sacrifice,  59  ff . 
Xmucane,  a  goddess,  243 
Xochicalco,  ruins  of,  40,  41 
Xolotl,  a  god,  275 
Xpiyacoc,  a  god,  243 
Xquiq,  the  Princess,  245 

Zipacna,  a  giant,  243 
Zotz,  the  bat-god,  207-208 

i  19,